AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) affects more women today than in the past. Pregnancy may hide some AIDS symptoms, which can make the disease harder to discover. Some treatments for AIDS may not be used during pregnancy.
It is possible for a woman to pass HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, to the baby before birth, during birth and, if she breastfeeds, after birth. The survival rate for children diagnosed with AIDS in the first 6 months of life is low.
Two blood tests are used to determine if a person has AIDS or is positive for HIV (human immunodeficiency virus)—the ELISA test and the Western Blot test. If the ELISA test is positive, it is confirmed by the Western Blot test. Both tests measure antibodies to the human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS, not the virus itself. The Western Blot test is believed to be 99% sensitive and specific.
Research has shown that AZT treatment can decrease the likelihood that an infected mother will pass the infection to her baby. The health risk to a baby infected with HIV is serious and significant, but advances continue to be made in AIDS research. If you are concerned about HIV and AIDS, discuss it with your physician. Combinations of medications are being tested with some success.