Congenital HIV

For expecting mothers with HIV infection or AIDS, the diagnosis can feel overwhelming. At Children’s Hospital Boston, we are here to help you, from testing through treatment. We offer comprehensive care for infants with, or at risk for, HIV infection or AIDS.

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").

Your immune system is what fights against infections to keep your body healthy and T-cells play a key role in keeping a person protected from infections. If your immune system is weakened, it can't protect your body and you can easily get sick.


  • can be spread from mother to unborn baby, but the risk of passing the virus to your baby can be reduced
  • cannot be transferred through sweat, saliva or casual contact with someone who is infected
  • could take years to show symptoms, but internal damage is still happening
  • has no cure, but treatments help prevent the disease from getting worse

How Children’s approaches congenital HIV

The Boston Children's Hospital AIDS Program (CHAP) treats congenital HIV in infants. CHAP is New England's largest clinic of its type, treating approximately 130 children, teens and their families each year. During the past two decades, CHAP has become an international leader in HIV and AIDS care and clinical research.

  • Our services include counseling, testing, diagnosis, treatment, education, mental health services, case management and referrals.
  • 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.

 Today, few children in the United States die of AIDS, and the transmission rate from mother to child is 1 percent.

Project Protection

Project Protection at the Martha Eliot Health Center provides pre- and post- HIV testing and counseling. These services are free, confidential and offered by walk-in or appointment. We also provide HIV, STI and Hepatitis prevention education.

Newborn medicine

At Children's Division of Newborn Medicine, we specialize in treating babies with a wide range of congenital and acquired conditions. Your baby will be seen by a specially trained team of physicians, nurses, therapists and other health professionals who routinely diagnose and treat newborns with critical illnesses.

Leading the way in fetal and neonatal care

Babies who have a congenital neurological condition need intense, specialized care. At the Fetal-Neonatal Neurology Program at Children’s, we provide comprehensive evaluation and treatment for these young children. Because newborns’ brains are in a crucial window of rapid development, we identify problems as early as possible and intervene quickly.

Essential support services
Read about general information and resources for Children’s patients and their families.

Congenital HIV: Reviewed by Sandra Burchett, MD, MSc, Clinical Director, Children’s Hospital Boston Division of Infectious Diseases