Since the beginning of the AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) epidemic, over two million children world-wide have acquired the disease perinatally through their mothers who are infected with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).
Perinatal or mother-to-child transmission now accounts for the majority of HIV infections among children. Statistics show that every one in three to four children faces the risk of being infected by their mothers while they are in the womb, during delivery and through breastfeeding.
In Singapore, the first case of paediatric HIV infection was reported in 1991. Since then, there have been 13 children infected perinatally by their mothers. All of these infections could have been prevented if the mothers were diagnosed during pregnancy and preventive therapy given.
With the increasing trend of heterosexual transmission of AIDS in Singapore, the incidence of HIV infection among women of the reproductive age is expected to rise. This in turn will lead to an increase in the number of children being infected perinatally.
Early diagnosis of the disease enables doctors to treat both the mother and child. They can also implement measures to prevent the transmission during and after delivery. Those infected would also have the choice to decide whether to continue with the pregnancy.
At KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital, HIV screening is offered to all pregnant women under the care of our doctors. They can be screened as early as at the first visit to the doctor. Results will be known within one to two weeks.
Our Clinic Staff will be glad to assist if you wish to know more about HIV screening.
What is the relationship between HIV and AIDS?
HIV causes AIDS. AIDS is the most severe stage of HIV resulting in damage to the body’s immune system, causing it to lose the ability to defend itself against other illnesses.
In the early stages, a person may be carrying the HIV virus in his body and yet appear and feel healthy. The only way to confirm the diagnosis is through an HIV Antibody Test.
What is a HIV Antibody Test?
When a person is infected by the HIV, his body produces proteins called antibodies in response to the virus. Most people will develop antibodies between two to 12 weeks after they are exposed to the virus. The HIV Antibody Test detects the presence of such antibodies in the blood.
What does the test result mean?
A positive test indicates an HIV infection. It means that the HIV virus can be passed on to others through sexual contact, blood or organ donations, or sharing of needles. The baby may also be infected if a pregnant woman is infected.
However, a positive test does not mean the person has AIDS at the moment as it may take up to 10 years for AIDS to appear. It also does not mean that the person is immune to AIDS nor that the body is protected against HIV.
A negative test means antibodies to the HIV were absent in the blood at the time of testing. It may mean that the person has yet to be infected or the infection was too recent for antibodies to develop. Therefore, it is important that a person with any reason to suspect having been exposed to HIV in the past six months repeat the test within three to six months to confirm the diagnosis.
A negative test does not mean the person is immune to HIV or that he is protected from future infection. Thus, persons who are tested negative for the HIV test are strongly encouraged to avoid activities which increasethe chances of such an infection (e.g casual sex, multiple partners, drug abuse using injections).
What is it important for a pregnant woman to have the test?
Having a test and knowing the result provides a pregnant woman options available to her and her partner with regard to the pregnancy.
Treatment for the mother of the newborn baby can be administered to reduce substantially (from 25% risk to 1 – 2% risk) the transmission of the HIV to the child, as well as to slow the progress of the infection before complications arise. The woman can be counselled to take precautions to prevent infecting her partner.
Give your unborn child the best chances for life. Get tested for HIV now!
What happens after the test?
Results of the test are kept in strict confidence. Only members of your immediate healthcare team will know if the result is positive.
However, persons who are diagnosed to be infected with HIV are encouraged to inform:
They will also be referred to the Communicable Disease Centre for treatment and counselling by qualified personnel, where they will be encouraged to change their lifestyles so as to increase the chances of maintaining their health for a longer period of time and prevent transmission of HIV to their partners.
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