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There are many ways you can help children and their families get the care they need.
At Boston Children’s Hospital, we understand that you may have a lot of questions when your child is diagnosed with congenital HIV, such as:
We’ve tried to provide some answers to those questions here, and when you meet with our experts, we can explain your child’s condition and treatment options fully.
Women with HIV can infect their babies while they’re pregnant or during delivery. HIV can also be passed from mother to baby through breast milk.
What causes congenital AIDS/HIV?
Congenital HIV is the result of the virus spreading to babies born to, or breastfed by mothers infected with the virus; however, not every child born to an HIV-infected mother will acquire the virus.
Is congenital AIDS/HIV common?
Between 6,000 and 7,000 children are born to HIV-infected mothers each year in the United States.
Even though there are no symptoms of HIV, the virus is actively infecting and killing cells of the immune system. As the immune system deteriorates, complications begin to develop. Symptoms vary child-to-child depending on age, but may include:
While there is no cure for HIV and AIDS, advances in medicine allow infants infected with HIV to live longer than ever before.
For more information about how congenital HIV is treated, as well as how the risk of passing the infection to your baby can be reduced, see the Treatment and Care tab.
If you have been infected with HIV or are at risk of infection, you probably have some questions about the condition and how it can affect your baby.
You may find it helpful to jot down questions as they arise—that way, when you talk to your doctor, you can be sure that all of your concerns are addressed.
Here are some questions to get you started:
Pregnant mothers can reduce the chances of their child getting AIDS/HIV by taking anti-retroviral drugs before giving birth and opting for a Cesarean section.
Parents often ask if children who have HIV can receive the regular childhood vaccinations. You should always discuss your child's medical options with your doctor, but the following vaccinations are typically safe to give to child with HIV:
Q: What is HIV?
A: HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. HIV is the virus which, when untreated, becomes AIDS, or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. The virus attacks the body's immune system, especially white blood cells called CD-4 cells (also called "T-cells").
Q: Why is HIV a problem?
A: HIV can be passed from a mother to her child during pregnancy or delivery as well as through breast milk.
Q: Is there any way to prevent infection?
A: Pregnant mothers can reduce the chances of their child getting AIDS/HIV by taking anti-retroviral drugs before giving birth and opting for a Cesarean section.
If you’re pregnant and think you may have been exposed to the virus, ask your doctor to screen you for HIV as soon as possible.
Q: How is HIV diagnosed?
A: An HIV-infected child is usually diagnosed with AIDS when his or her immune system becomes severely damaged or other types of infections occur. To determine whether your child has HIV, your doctor will perform different blood tests.
Q: What symptoms might my baby have?
A: Babies born with HIV experience no immediate symptoms.
Even though there are no symptoms, the virus is actively infecting and killing cells of the immune system. As the immune system deteriorates, complications begin to develop. Symptoms vary child-to-child depending on age, but may include:
Q: What are our treatment options?
A: The Children's Hospital AIDS Program (CHAP) treats congenital HIV in infants.
As with many other conditions, early detection of HIV offers more options for treatment. Today, there are medical treatments that can slow down the rate at which HIV weakens the immune system, but currently, there is no cure for the disease. However, there are other treatments that can prevent or cure the conditions associated with HIV.
Traditional treatments for AIDS/HIV in pregnant women:
Q: What is my child’s long-term outlook?
A:While there is no cure for HIV and AIDS, advances in medicine allow infants infected with HIV to live longer than ever before.
Q: What makes Children’s Hospital Boston different?
A: Our physicians are expert, compassionate and committed to focusing on the whole child, not just his condition—that’s one reason we’re frequently ranked as a top pediatric hospital in the United States.
The Children's Hospital AIDS Program (CHAP) is New England's largest clinic of its type. During the past two decades, our multidisciplinary team has helped CHAP become an international leader in HIV and AIDS care and clinical research. Research pioneered by our team and others, as well as the success of anti-viral drugs, has transformed the disease from a death sentence to a manageable condition.
And at Children’s, we consider you and your child integral parts of the care team and not simply recipients of care. You and your care team will work together to customize a plan of care for your child.
We are grateful to have been ranked #1 on U.S. News & World Report's list of the best children's hospitals in the nation for the third year in a row, an honor we could not have achieved without the patients and families who inspire us to do our very best for them. Thanks to you, Boston Children's is a place where we can write the greatest children's stories ever told.”