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Human immunodeficiency virus

(Human • ih-myoo-NO-di-FISH-uhn-see • vIE-ruhs)

General Condition Information

Other Names

  • Congenital HIV
  • Congenital human immunodeficiency virus
  • HIV
  • Neonatal HIV
  • Neonatal human immunodeficiency virus

Condition Type

Birth Prevalence

It is estimated that fewer than 100 babies are born with this condition each year in the United States.

Screening Finding

Presence of HIV antibodies

What is human immunodeficiency virus

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system. If untreated, HIV can lead to the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). HIV spreads through contact with certain body fluids or blood from an HIV-infected person.

When a pregnant mother has an HIV infection or AIDS, the virus can infect the baby during pregnancy, delivery, or while breastfeeding. HIV is passed on from mother to infant most often during delivery (perinatal transmission). Treatment of a mother with HIV infection during pregnancy with antiviral medications can reduce a baby’s chance of getting the infection.

The best way to prevent babies from HIV infection is to screen all pregnant women for HIV infection. Pregnant women who are infected with HIV then receive antiviral medications to reduce the amount of virus. While around 5,000 babies are born each year in the United States to HIV-infected mothers, less than 100 babies are born with an HIV infection each year due to the use of screening and antiviral therapy.

Babies infected with HIV before birth will not have any health problems right away, but often develop signs and symptoms a little later in life.

Newborn Screening and Follow-Up

Condition Details

Treatment and Management

Babies born to HIV-infected mothers will receive a short course of antiviral medicine to help prevent infection (prophylaxis). Babies with a HIV infection will get treatment right away with additional antiviral medicines. It is important to talk to your health care provider about which treatment(s) are best for your baby. The goal of treatment is to try to prevent some of the health problems this condition causes.

Treatment options can include the following:

  • HIV medicines (zidovudine and others)
  • Antibiotics to help prevent infections
  • Modification of routine vaccinations if infant is severely immunocompromised
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