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Saturday, March 21, 2009

HIV treatment during pregnancy

One of the greatest advances in the management of HIV infection has been in pregnant women. Prior to antiviral therapy, the risk of HIV transmission from an infected mother to her newborn was approximately 25-35%. The first major advance in this area came with studies giving ZDV after the first trimester of pregnancy, then intravenously during the delivery process, and then after delivery to the newborn for 6 weeks. This treatment showed a reduction in the risk of transmission to less than 10%. Although less data are available with more potent drug combinations, clinical experience suggests that the risk of transmission may be reduced to less than 5%. Current recommendations are to advise HIV-infected pregnant women regarding both the unknown side effects of antiviral therapy on the fetus, and the promising clinical experience with potent therapy in preventing transmission. In the final analysis, however, pregnant women with HIV should be treated essentially the same as non-pregnant women with HIV. Exceptions would be during the first trimester, where therapy remains controversial, and avoiding certain drugs that may cause greater concern for fetal toxicity, such as EFV. All HIV-infected pregnant women should be managed by an obstetrician with experience in dealing with HIV-infected women. Maximal obstetric precautions to minimize transmission of the HIV virus such as avoiding scalp monitors, and minimizing labor after rupture of the uterine membranes. In addition, the potential use of an elective Caesarean section (C- section) should be discussed, particularly in those women without good viral control of their HIV infection where the risk of transmission may be increased. Breastfeeding should be avoided if alternative nutrition for the infant is available since HIV transmission can occur by this route. Despite the reduced risk of transmission associated with antiviral therapy, pregnant women with HIV need to be thoroughly counseled regarding all risks, as well as all options, including therapeutic abortions when appropriate. Updated guidelines for managing HIV-infected women are updated on a regular basis and can be found at