Q and A

Question

I’m 6 months pregnant. Is it safe to delay starting treatment?

I am 6 months pregnant and have just tested positive. My CD4 count is 256. I have to start now.

I didn’t get much info as I thought I am doing it for my baby but I find it difficult to deal with the fact that I have developed AIDS, and have to start treatment.

My question is, will it be dangerous for me to delay taking the treatment for myself and only take the one for the baby. Since I think it was my emotional state that made my CD to be low.

I am very healthy and eat well. Please advise.

Answer

Firstly, congratulations on your pregnancy.

I am sorry about your recent HIV diagnosis. I can appreciate that it cannot be easy dealing with a diagnosis during pregnancy and then knowing that you need to start taking treatment straight away. Can I ask if your doctor has put you in contact with support groups for people living with HIV? Many women find it helpful sharing experiences and coping with being HIV positive and pregnant.

Technically, a CD4 count of 256 doe not mean you have ‘AIDS’ as the US defines this as being less than 200, but it does mean starting treatment is very important.

Your doctor is giving you good advice. Starting treatment (ART) straight away is important.

The WHO (World Health Organisation) guidelines recommends all HIV positive pregnant women start ART. This is regardless of the CD4 count. These meds will be good for your health and good for your baby. The meds should get your viral load to undetectable befire your baby is born. Sometimes this takes longer than three months.

Viral load refers to the amount of virus in your body. An undetectable viral load (below 50 copies) means that there is very little virus in your body and is therefore the best way of preventing transmission to the baby.

Continuing ART afterwards is also recommended, but should be discussed with your doctor. As your CD4 count is 256, it is better to continue taking treatment after the baby is born.

The good news is that ART should increase your CD4 count. Although sometimes if you start taking treatment in pregnancy your CD4 count may not increase very much. If  this happens, don’t worry, your CD4 count will catch up after the baby is born. For more information on HIV and pregnancy, please follow this link to our guide to  HIV, pregnancy and women’s health. The guide also answers a lot of general questions about HIV and pregnancy.

It is good that you eat well and lead a healthy lifestyle. Avoiding stress, eating a balanced diet and taking exercise are all good for your general health and well being. However, this will not necessarily increase your CD4 count. ARVs are the only proven way of increasing and maintaining a good CD4 count.

As you are based in South Africa, you may find it useful to contact TAC (Treatment Action Campaign). They will be able to put you in contact with support groups near you. You may also find it useful to read TAC’s guide to Pregnancy in our lives.

Good luck for the rest of your pregnancy.

Note: This answer was updated in February 2018 from a question first posted online in April 2012.

226 comments

  1. Lisa Thorley

    Hi Anonymous,

    How are you coping with your diagnoses? Are you getting any support? Have you started taking ARVs?

    Being diagnosed can be hard, more so if you’re pregnant. However, it’s very possible to have a negative child.

    What’s important now is that you engage with treatment for HIV (that is if you haven’t already) and that you adhere to your medication.

    It’s the ARVs that will help reduce the risk of HIV to your baby. There’s more information about this in this guide:

    https://i-base.info/guides/pregnancy

  2. Anonymous

    Hi am 4months pregnant and I tested positive is still my unborn safe plz help

  3. Lisa Thorley

    Hi Sydney,

    How are you coping with your diagnosis? Are you getting any support?
    Now that you know your status, it’s important that you take ARVs. No only will the ARVs help you, they’ll also reduce the risk of transmission to your baby, please see here: https://i-base.info/guides/pregnancy

  4. Sydney

    I’m 2month pregnant and I test positive for hiv what can i do to protect my unborn baby from hiv

  5. Lisa Thorley

    Hi Sly,

    Though you’ve started taking ARVs late in pregnancy, it’s still possible that your baby will be negative. There’s info on what to expect if your viral load is still detectable when you deliver here: https://i-base.info/guides/pregnancy

  6. Sly

    Hi

    I started taking arvs when I was 6 months pregnant, is my baby still safe from getting infected? Or is it late.

Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *