HIV Transmission from Mother to Child in the United States: From Epidemic to Near Elimination (Text Alternative)

Children are most likely to get HIV from their mothers in 1 of 3 ways:

Graphic: Icon of a pregnant woman.

In the womb

Graphic: Icon of a baby in swaddling clothes.

During birth

Graphic: Icon of a mother breastfeeding a baby.

From breastfeeding or breastmilk

30 years of NICHD research has helped establish safe and effective ways to prevent this type of HIV transmission.

Risk of Mother-to-Child HIV Transmission

25% Emerging Risks of HIV

List of three items:

  • In 1991, NICHD research showed a 25% chance of an HIV-positive pregnant woman passing the virus to her infant.
  • There were no approved treatments for HIV-positive children.
  • There were no proven ways to prevent transmission.

8.3% Using Treatment as Prevention

Graphic: Icon of a pregnant woman taking medicine with the caption "clinical trial" followed by an arrow pointing to an icon of two medication bottles with the caption "zidovudine (AZT)".

List of four items:

  • The NICHD helped fund the first clinical trial to test the drug zidovudine (AZT) in HIV-positive pregnant women.
  • Trial results were so impressive that the trial was stopped early so that all the participants could benefit from the treatment.
  • In 1994, AZT became the standard treatment for HIV-positive pregnant women in the United States.
  • AZT helped reduce mother-to-child transmission risk to 8.3%.

1.2% Improving treatment

Graphic: Illustration of assorted pills with the caption "Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART)"

List of three items:

  • Research from the NICHD and others showed that a 3-drug regimen—called HAART—was better than AZT at preventing mother-to-child transmission. A 2002 study showed that HAART reduced the risk of transmission to 1.2%.
  • HAART became the standard treatment for HIV-positive pregnant women in the United States.
  • Ongoing research, co-funded by NICHD, is looking at the long-term safety of fetal exposure to HAART during pregnancy.

NICHD continues to conduct cutting-edge research to help prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission. To learn more, visit:

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