People with HIV who wish to have children may be concerned about transmitting HIV to their partner when trying to conceive, or to their baby. In Australia precautions can be taken that reduce these risks to almost zero.
Mother to child transmission of HIV is rare in Australia and usually only occurs when the woman does not find out she is HIV-positive in time to take precautions to prevent it.
The risk of transmitting HIV to your child can be as low as 1-2 % if:
- Your viral load is low or ‘undetectable’
- Your CD4 count is high
- You use antiretrovirals during pregnancy and delivery
- You have access to good obstetric care
- You have a caesarean birth
- You do not breastfeed
- Your baby is given antiretrovirals for four weeks after delivery.
Recent research shows that it is safe for a serodiscordant couple (where one is HIV-positive the other is not), to conceive through sex without condoms, provided:
- The positive partner’s viral load is undetectable due to antiretroviral treatment
- Neither partner has a sexually transmissible infection (this can increase the risk of HIV infection)
- Condomless sex is timed to coincide with the woman’s ovulation.
The risk of HIV transmission is also substantially reduced if the HIV-negative partner is taking HIV antiretrovirals as pre-exposure prophylaxis before conception or post-exposure prophylaxis after having sex without a condom. Ask your doctor for more information about these options.