Advances enable HIV positive women to have healthy babies - 19 Action News|Cleveland, OH|News, Weather, Sports

Advances enable HIV positive women to have healthy babies

New advancements in the battle against AIDS are bringing hope to women living with HIV who want to have kids.

"I always dreamed of having children," said Carole.

But she thought that dream was crushed when she learned she was HIV-positive.

"When I found out I was positive, I had the impression – ‘Oh God, I will never be able to have kids,'" she said. "It was the only thing that went through my mind."

Carole didn't know that being infected with HIV didn't necessarily mean she would transfer the virus to her children.

"This is a preventable condition," said Dr. Edwin Thorpe, OB-GYN. "Once we can identify women who have the infection, that therapy can be instituted prior to delivery, during delivery, and the infant can receive medication for what we call prophylaxis."

The mother receives regular treatment during the pregnancy, an IV drip during labor filled with medication to fight transmission and the infant receives six weeks of oral treatments after delivery.

"When that's all in place, the likelihood of transmission is less than one in 100," said Thorpe.

It worked for Carole and her son, and they're not alone.

Tennessee's Shelby County Health Department records show that in 2010, fewer than five children were born who were infected with HIV.

"This is just an incredible statistic," said Dr. Betty Dupont, the executive director of Hope House, a daycare and pre-school for children impacted by HIV and AIDS.

"When I first started here over 13 years ago, about one-third of our children were actually infected with the disease," she said. "Now I believe we just have one child who is positive among our children here."

The rate of infected newborns in Shelby County has dropped 25 percent since the mid-1990's.

Doctors credit a Tennessee law that requires OBGYN's to offer the HIV test to pregnant women. Patients can refuse, but Dr. Thorpe says they usually don't.

"If they decline, well, we can't force the test," he said. "However, there's an option afterwards to test the baby. That makes a big difference because medication can be started, or more importantly, the infant can have therapy started."

It made a big difference for Carole's son, who is HIV-free.

For anyone who is pregnant and unsure if they're HIV positive, here's a really good reason to get tested: There's a 25 percent chance that an untreated mother will pass HIV on to her baby.

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