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HIV Symptoms – Children Born With HIV

Affinity Health is a leading provider of high-quality healthcare cover. Here is their take on HIV infection in children as a growing public health concern.


In 2002, 800,000 children under 15 contracted HIV. The majority of cases live in Sub-Saharan Africa. Mother-to-child transmission accounts for over 90% of all HIV infections in children. Most of these children are younger than the age of 15. The chances of a pregnant mother transmitting HIV to her unborn child are 5-10%. 10-20% of transmissions occur during labour and delivery and 5-20% during nursing.


“Preventing the transmission of HIV from mothers to children is important. It is crucial for the global HIV/AIDS control strategy,” says Murray Hewlett, Affinity Health CEO.

How is HIV Transmitted to Children?

Mother-to-child transmission is the most common way infants and young children contract HIV. It is important to remember that not all HIV-infected mothers pass the virus to their babies. Two-thirds of babies born to HIV-infected women do not become infected with the virus.


A baby can become infected between early pregnancy and the end of breastfeeding. Still, more research must show if other nutritional deficiencies play a role.


Learn More: The Importance of Nutrition and Diet in HIV/AIDS

Other factors to consider include:

  • The length of labour after the waters have broken.
  • Delivery method.
  • Neonatal practices.


All women are at risk of acquiring HIV infection from:

  • Having unprotected penetrative vaginal or anal sex without using a condom.
  • Receiving an unsafe blood transfusion.
  • Using unsterilised needles and syringes.
  • Surgical or cutting instruments contaminated with someone else’s blood.

Some cultural practices may increase women’s infection risk. For example, abstaining from sex during pregnancy or breastfeeding could cause conflict. The conflict may encourage men to have sex with other partners. That increases the risk of HIV infection. In turn, men may infect women and unborn children.

The Importance of Antiretroviral Therapy

Antiretroviral treatment (ARVs) and combination therapy do the following:


In most developing countries, antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) are not easy to access. That places many pregnant women in danger.

A Word on Unsafe Blood Transfusions

A transfusion increases the risk of infection if the blood has HIV. Screening blood before transfusion is vital. All women lose some blood during delivery. Women’s bodies can compensate for blood loss during delivery. But recovery measures need to happen after birth. A mother may need a blood transfusion.


Blood transfusions are routinely given to women to replace blood loss. A transfusion increases the risks of infection if the blood has HIV. And if she becomes infected, she may relay the virus to her baby during breastfeeding.


“An HIV-positive mother can relay HIV to their baby at any time. That includes during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t have children. Preventative treatment and HIV management are key. That can control risks of transmission to your baby,” concludes Hewlett.


Mothers should never hesitate to speak to healthcare providers if they classify as follows:

  • HIV-positive and intending to fall pregnant.
  • Or are already pregnant.

Learn More: Should You Get HIV Tested?

About Affinity Health

Affinity Health is the leading provider of affordable medical insurance in South Africa. Members enjoy access to a network of healthcare providers. We have designed healthcare products to protect you and your family when it matters the most. We strive to give our clients peace of mind and the highest standard of service. For more information, follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

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