Thursday, February 27, 2003
Last Updated: 2003-02-27 16:21:02 -0400 (Reuters Health)
By Alison McCook
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Thanks to relatively new and powerful HIV medications, women who became infected with HIV before birth are now living long enough to become pregnant themselves, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Thursday.
The agency describes the cases of eight women living in Puerto Rico who acquired HIV from their mothers in the womb--known as perinatal infection--and reported 10 pregnancies between August 1998 and May 2002.
As of this week, none of the seven babies born to these mothers had developed HIV, the authors report in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. All of the babies received preventive drug treatment after delivery, and four of the women consistently took anti-HIV drugs during their pregnancies.
Two of the 10 pregnancies ended in abortion, while the third ended in miscarriage.
These findings, the first to report pregnancies among women born HIV-positive, represent a "landmark" in the HIV epidemic, study author Dr. Michelle McConnell of the CDC told Reuters Health.
"They were born with HIV, and now they are not only alive, but healthy enough to have their own children," McConnell said.
And a large number of perinatally infected children are likely not far behind, she added.
"I think this is going to happen more and more," McConnell said.
During the study, the CDC researchers compared eight perinatally infected women to eight perinatally infected women who had never conceived. Women who had conceived had first done so between 13 and 19 years of age.
Relative to other perinatally infected women who had not become pregnant, those who conceived tended to learn about their HIV status at a later age and were less likely to consistently use condoms when having sex.
Half of the women who conceived were first told of their infection at age 13 or older, while half of those who had not become pregnant were told at age 12 or younger.
In terms of condom use, only two of the women who had not conceived said they were sexually active, and both reported using condoms consistently. In contrast, among the eight women who became pregnant, only two said they used condoms consistently.
Although the report is based on information from only a handful of young girls, the authors note that the findings suggest that parents of HIV-positive kids should inform their children about their health at an early age.
Teens and young adults with perinatal infection also need to discuss sexual health before they begin to have sex, the authors add.
As more perinatally infected women become pregnant, McConnell said there will be a greater need for health services tailored to meet their specific needs. These services include reproductive information, and medication during pregnancy and for the newborn, she noted.
SOURCE: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 2003;28:149-151.