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The Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV) is a germ (virus) which is spread from person to person during sexual intercourse, or through infected blood (for example, needle injuries to health professionals). Spread may be reduced by using condoms.

A person who is infected may remain healthy for many years before developing the illness called Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).

At present AIDS is a fatal illness for which we do not have a cure. During the years when people become infected but remain healthy, they are unaware of the infection unless a blood test is done to show that they are HIV-positive. Despite being healthy, they may spread the infection to their sexual partners, and their babies.

Preconception decisions

Before deciding to fall pregnant, it is ideal for a woman to have an HIV test. If a woman tests HIV-positive, she should discuss the implications of this with a health professional. If she still desires to fall pregnant, her health, including HIV management, should be optimised before she tries to conceive.

A positive HIV test, means that the virus is present in the mother’s blood, and also in her breast milk.

If nothing is done to prevent it, about 30 out of every 100 mothers who are HIV- positive will spread the infection to their babies (during pregnancy and childbirth, or through breastfeeding). AIDS develops more rapidly in babies than in adults, and most infected babies die from AIDS during early childhood.

It is important that we do everything possible to reduce the number of babies infected with HIV. 

HIV infection is very difficult to cope with. It is vitally important to get help from a trained HIV counsellor.