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HIV and AIDS during Pregnancy

HIV and AIDS during Pregnancy

by: Dr. Bharti Minocha
Consultant, Gynecology

HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. HIV attacks the body’s immune system, gradually destroying its ability to fight infections and certain cancers. If it is left untreated, HIV can develop into acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). This is the most severe stage of HIV and is usually fatal. In the past, HIV infection was commonly considered a death sentence. Today, AIDS is considered a chronic, life-threatening illness. AIDS symptoms include soaking night sweats, fever (for several weeks), persistent diarrhea,  cough and shortness of breath, unexplained fatigue, blurred vision, white spots in the mouth, skin rashes and weight loss. It can be detected simply by a blood test. Unprotected sex with an infected partner is the most common route of infection for women. HIV/AIDS can also be spread via blood. Some women become infected after sharing needles to inject drugs.

In most cases, HIV isn’t passed to the baby in utero (though it can happen). That’s because the placenta provides a barrier between the mom’s blood and the baby’s blood. There’s a chance that your baby could become infected at birth, but doctors have gotten really good at decreasing that possibility. With treatment, doctors can decrease the chance of your baby getting HIV/AIDS to about 1 percent. Antiviral medications can block the virus and help you stay healthy.

How can you get tested for HIV?

Please note that the tests associated with HIV are accurate and have limited errors. If you have had any exposure to HIV, you need to wait for few weeks to detect the virus. There are numerous types of tests that are recommended for the HIV Testing.

Most tests check your blood for the presence of HIV antibodies or a combination of antibodies and antigens. This test is based on the immune system response that checks the antibodies that are made to combat the AIDS or HIV virus. It usually takes 12 weeks to check the antibodies.

Antigens are the part of the virus that antibodies respond to. Because antigens show up faster than antibodies, a test that looks for both antigens and antibodies can detect HIV sooner, usually between two and six weeks after a possible exposure.

 If the first test is positive, the result will be confirmed by a second test. A false positive is when the result of the initial HIV test is positive, but the second one is negative. These are rare but can happen. You’ll have two tests, so you can be sure of the result.

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