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Why Fewer Babies Are Being Born With HIV

Mar 20, 2017
TIME Health
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Researchers have seen big progress in reducing HIV transmission from mother to child, according to the latest data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In a report published in JAMA Pediatrics, scientists found that in 2013, 69 babies were born with the virus in the U.S., compared to 216 in 2002.

Efforts to prevent the transmission of HIV from mother to child during pregnancy are starting to pay off, as TIME detailed in a recent feature about stopping the spread to infants. Part of that is due to higher rates of HIV testing among women. About half of the women who gave birth to HIV-positive newborns were diagnosed with HIV before getting pregnant in the years from 2010-2013. Only about 38% of mothers knew their status before pregnancy in the years from 2002-2005. This suggests that more women are getting tested for HIV, which doctors say is a critical step in reducing transmission. Expectant moms who know their status can start anti-HIV drug treatments, which can keep their virus at extremely low levels. Moms on proper treatment only have a 1-2% chance of passing on HIV to their babies.

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Success, however, isn't even for all mothers. Between 2002 and 2013, about two thirds of babies born with HIV belonged to African-American mothers—a statistic that highlights the higher rates of HIV prevalence, and lack of access to testing and treatments, among some populations.

Overall, though, it's a success story, and it is prompting the CDC and the World Health Organization to launch programs aimed at eliminating transmission of HIV from mothers to children during pregnancy. Read more about how drug therapies are preventing the spread of the virus in utero.

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