Ask the Doctor: Will my baby have HIV?

Monday June 24 2019


By Dr Vincent Karuhanga

I am eight months pregnant. My husband travelled for studies when I was two months pregnant and when he came back, he tested HIV-positive while I tested negative. Will the baby be HIV-positive? Delailah

Dear Delailah,
HIV infection is mostly transmitted through sex. Also, a mother who is infected may pass HIV infection to the baby during pregnancy, delivery or during breastfeeding. If the father is HIV-positive and the mother is not, the baby is unlikely to get HIV from the father unless the father infects the mother first. It is, therefore, important that you do not engage in unprotected sex with your husband to avoid being infected.

A common misconception in Uganda is that if the father of the baby is positive, then his sperm that may have fertilised a woman’s egg may carry HIV germs and cause HIV infection in the baby. Sperms are free of HIV germs and therefore on their own cannot transmit HIV infection as semen does.

Since he has been away for six months, avoid being intimate. First visit an HIV counsellor or your doctor together with your husband for further advice about preventing infection in yourself and therefore the baby without maligning your husband.
If you have already had unprotected sex, still visit your doctor for further advice because a pregnant woman is more vulnerable to HIV infection. Your doctor may require to give you some drugs to prevent infection (if it is not less than 72 hours after sexual intercourse) or provisionally put you on medication if this is not the case.

The tests may read negative yet you have already got infected but only because the body has not yet seriously reacted to infection (window period). The window period is very dangerous because one will believe she is not infected and not take measures to avoid spreading the infection to the baby. Also, during the window period, the virus is multiplying fast so that spreading it may occur more easily. Even the conventional tests require repeating at around three months, a time your baby would have been delivered.