Perinatal Transmission

We anticipate that most of the children in the HIV group will have been infected through their mothers, with one or two exceptions. (The exceptions received blood transfusions contaminated with HIV as infants.) Mother to child transmission, which is also called perinatal or vertical transmission, can occur at three junctions: before birth (in utero), during labor or delivery (intrapartum), and after birth (postpartum). Postpartum infection is a result of breastfeeding.

Babies born to HIV infected mothers are `born positive’ in that they have their mothers anti-HIV antibodies in their blood. Presence of HIV antibodies means they have been exposed to HIV, but not necessarily that they are infected with HIV. Babies are repeatedly tested to see if they sero-revert. If tests are consistent at 4 months then the baby’s status can usually be determined. By about 12 – 18 months maternal antibodies are no longer present and a child’s HIV status can be determined with confidence. For more information on perinatal transmission, please see “Preventing Mother-to-Child Transmission (PMTCT)” in the AIDS Knowledge Base.

Please see CAPS Fact Sheet 34ER

Last modified: February 24, 2011