Although your doctor may not offer an HIV test as part of your routine prenatal care, it's a good idea to have one. If you have any risk factors for HIV infection, your doctor may want to give you a second test later in your pregnancy.
HIV infection comes in three stages. The first stage is called acute infection or seroconversion, and it typically happens within two to six weeks after exposure or becoming infected. This is when the body's immune system puts up a fight against HIV. The symptoms of acute infection look similar to those of other viral illnesses and are often compared to those of the flu. The symptoms may last a week or two and then completely go away as the virus goes into a non-symptomatic stage.
If you or your partner has ever had unprotected sex (or shared needles) with a person whose HIV status is unknown, there is a chance that you have the virus. If you do have HIV, your baby could also become infected. The virus is usually passed on during labor and childbirth. It is sometimes is passed during pregnancy. Breast-feeding can pass the virus from mother to baby.
Treatment with medicines called antiretrovirals, both during pregnancy and after the birth, greatly reduces a baby's risk of HIV infection. Antiretroviral medicines prevent the virus from multiplying. When the amount of HIV in the blood is minimized, the immune system has a chance to recover and grow stronger.
Treatment for HIV during and/or after pregnancy may include:
Antiretroviral treatment for the mother.
Planned cesarean delivery for women who have a high viral load. This means they have a higher risk for infecting their babies.
Antiretroviral treatment for the baby for 6 weeks after birth.