Testing & Diagnosis for Congenital HIV in Children

The first step in treating your child is forming an accurate and complete diagnosis.

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.

  • Early HIV infection must be detected by testing your child's blood for the presence of antibodies (disease-fighting proteins) to HIV. These HIV antibodies generally do not reach levels high enough to detect by standard blood tests until one to three months following infection, and may take as long as six months.
  • When a person is highly likely to be infected with HIV, but antibody tests are negative, a test for the presence of HIV itself in the blood is used. Repeat antibody testing at a later date, when antibodies to HIV are more likely to have developed, is often recommended.
  • An infant born to an HIV-infected mother may not test positive at birth and it may be necessary for the infant to undergo multiple blood tests at different intervals during her first six months of life.

After we complete all necessary tests, Children’s Hospital Boston’s experts meet to review and discuss what they have learned. Then we will meet with you and your family to discuss the results and outline the best treatment options.

HIV/AIDS Milestones

See the advances made in the fight against HIV/AIDS in this interactive timeline.


Keep family and friends up to date during your child’s treatment by creating a free Children’s CarePage.