HIV prevention

Under optimal conditions no additional measures are necessary after delivery. However, in some cases the child is given HIV medication for two to six weeks. This helps to further reduce the risk of the child becoming infected with HIV. In most cases, you can take your baby home with you and administer the medication yourself. Please bear in mind: the medication must be given as prescribed to ensure that it works. In general, the medication is well tolerated by babies.

Breastfeeding or bottle-feeding?

Breastmilk contains all vital nutrients in the amount and composition that babies need, in addition to important antibodies to protect them against infectious diseases.

Under ideal conditions breastfeeding is also possible with HIV. In this case, close medical supervision with regular examinations is important. Talk to your medical team about breastfeeding and discuss what is best in your situation.

If the amount of HIV in your blood is not low enough, it is recommended that you do not breastfeed but bottle-feed your child instead. In Germany, there shouldn’t be any concern about bottle-feeding: baby formula dissolved in boiled water poses no risk with regard to hygiene. And germs that can cause illnesses can be safely destroyed by placing the bottles and teats/nipples in boiling water for three minutes.

If someone asks you…

… why you are not breastfeeding, you can say: “After giving birth, my mammary glands became infected, so I had to stop breastfeeding.” This kind of inflammation is common.

HIV tests

To ensure that the child has not been infected with HIV, an HIV test is performed 30 to 40 days and after three to six months in order to check for HIV copies. If both tests are negative, you can be sure that your child was not infected with HIV.

If the viral load in your blood was not always below the limit of detection during pregnancy or if there was an issue, your child will be tested more often – beginning with the first day following delivery. Because if your child was infected, it should quickly receive medication. If all tests are negative, you can be sure that your child was not infected once the last test was performed (after six months at the latest).

If you are breastfeeding, your child should be tested for HIV more frequently – six tests during the first six months are recommended. If you stop breastfeeding, additional tests will follow after two and six weeks.

An HIV antibody test can also be performed when your child is between 18 and 24 months old. This would not be reasonable any earlier, as the mother’s antibodies will still be present in the child’s blood.

Having to wait can take its toll on your mental health. Make sure you surround yourself with people who support you, e.g. your partner, family members or good friends. The Aidshilfe staff is also there to help you and will let you know where to find support, e.g. pro familia counsellors or psychologists.

Stay in touch

To make sure you and your child get the best possible medical treatment, you should stay in touch with your medical team after the delivery. This is also reasonable if your child isn’t infected with HIV. If your doctors know how you and your child are doing, they can learn from your case and continue to improve medical treatment for pregnant women with HIV.