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HIV Among Pregnant Women, Infants, and Children

Perinatal HIV, also known as mother-to-child transmission, can happen at any time during pregnancy, labor, delivery, and breastfeeding. CDC recommends that all women who are pregnant or planning to get pregnant take an HIV test as early as possible before and during every pregnancy. This is because the earlier HIV is diagnosed and treated, the more effective HIV medicines, called antiretroviral treatment (ART), will be at preventing transmission and improving the health outcomes of both mother and child.

Advances in HIV research, prevention, and treatment have made it possible for many women living with HIV to give birth without transmitting the virus to their babies. HIV infections through perinatal transmission have declined by more than 90% since the early 1990s, while the number of HIV-infected women giving birth has increased. Today, if a woman takes HIV medicines exactly as prescribed throughout pregnancy, labor, and delivery, and provides HIV medicines to her baby for 4-6 weeks, the risk of transmitting HIV can be 1% or less. In some cases, a Cesarean delivery can also prevent HIV transmission. After delivery, a mother can prevent transmitting HIV to her baby by not breastfeeding and not pre-chewing her baby’s food.

Women who are HIV-negative but have an HIV-positive partner should talk to their doctor about taking HIV medicines daily, called pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), to protect themselves while trying to get pregnant, and to protect themselves and their baby during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.

  • All women who are pregnant or planning to get pregnant should get tested for HIV as early as possible.
  • If a woman is treated for HIV early in her pregnancy, the risk of transmitting HIV to her baby can be 1% or less.
  • With current treatment, many people who have perinatal HIV are living long into adulthood.

One Test

The One Test. Two Lives. campaign from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) focuses on ensuring that all women are tested for HIV early in their pregnancy and provides obstetric providers new tools to help ensure all patients get tested for HIV early in their pregnancy.

One Test. Two Lives. provides quick access to a variety of resources for providers, and materials for their patients, to help encourage universal voluntary prenatal testing for HIV.

Perinatal transmission accounts for 91% of all AIDS cases among children in the United States. Antiretroviral therapy during pregnancy can reduce the transmission rate to 1% or less. The transmission rate is 25% without treatment.

The mission of the One Test. Two Lives. campaign is to help prevent transmission of HIV from mother to child and promote optimal maternal health.

HIV and AIDS Diagnoses

  • Approximately 8,500 women living with HIV give birth annually.
  • Most (73%) of the estimated 174 childrena in the United States who were diagnosed with HIV in 2014 got HIV through perinatal transmission.
  • Most (88%) of the estimated 104 children in the United States diagnosed with AIDS in 2014 got HIV through perinatal transmission.

Living With HIV  

  • Of the estimated 1,999 children living with perinatal HIV at the end of 2013, 1,298 (65%) were black/African American, 312 (16%) were Hispanic/Latino,b and 212 (11%) were white.
  • At the end of 2013, an estimated 9,131 adults and adolescents (aged 13 and older) were living with HIV acquired through perinatal transmission. Of these, 60% (5,495) were black/African American, 23% (2,093) were Hispanic/Latino, and 12% (1,118) were white.

Rates (per 100,000 live births) of perinatally acquired HIV infections by year of birth and mother’s race/ethnicity, 2008–2012

perinatal hiv rates


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