All over the world, innocent children are dying from Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). Although it is most commonly known as a sexually transmitted disease, HIV can be transmitted from mother to child as well. HIV is a virus which attacks the T cells or CD4 cells, which are white blood cells required by the body to fight infections and diseases (Piot and Quinn). HIV uses these cells to make copies of itself and then destroys them. Over time, HIV attacks so many T cells that the body does not have the ability to fight infections and diseases. This can lead to AIDS, which is the final stage of HIV. One example of an illness developed in people with HIV is Pneumocystis jiroveci pneumonia (PCP), which is a fungul infection of the lungs. Symptoms include a dry cough, a fever, rapid breathing, and shortness of breath. Other effects of the disease include frequent colds, ear infections, upset stomachs, and chronic diarrhea.
HIV and AIDS first started to appear in the United States in the late seventies. No one in the government or the medical profession had any idea how this disease would change the life and life expectancy of thousands of people all over the country. Sexual lifestyles completely changed in the U.S. because of the AIDS outbreak. People are no longer able to have several intimate relationships before marriage without the fear of contracting this death threatening virus (Kübler-Ross 29). In the 1980’s, HIV and AIDS were considered to be “gay diseases”, meaning they could only be contracted by gay men. This conception was proven to be false when children were born with the disease because their mother contracted it.
Mother to child transmission of HIV occurs when a woman infected with HIV transmits the virus to her baby during pregnancy, during labor and delivery, or by breastfeeding (McGowan and Shah). A woman can contract HIV though unprotected sex or by using contaminated needles. Women who took drugs intravenously in the past with unclean needles are more susceptible to the virus and can pass it on to their children. A father with a history in drugs can also pass HIV to a woman during intercourse who can transmit the disease to her baby. An instance of this is a patient at the Children’s Hospital who contracted HIV from his mother. The semen which made it possible for her to conceive, long after both parents gave up drugs, was AIDS positive and they were too (Kübler-Ross). Mothers might pass HIV to their child without even knowing they have the virus in the first place. There are millions of carriers of HIV, many of whom are not aware they are carriers!
A pregnant woman can discover if she has HIV by being tested. It is recommended for all women to be tested for HIV as part of their pregnancy care. Healthcare providers might also recommend that some women be tested a second time during their third trimester based on their medical history. A mother will most likely be tested for HIV using an HIV antibody test. An HIV antibody test...