Treatment training manual

6.13 When baby is born

The baby’s diagnosis

Babies born to HIV positive mothers will always have an initial HIV positive result using an HIV antibody test.

This is normal and does not mean the baby has HIV. A baby shares the mother’s immune responses that the antibody test looks for. It sometimes takes up to 18 months for these responses to gradually disappear.

The baby will be tested using an HIV PCR DNA or RNA test. These tests look for virus in the baby’s blood.

  • HIV PCR DNA is a highly sensitive test that detects tiny amounts of HIV DNA in blood plasma. PCR stands for polymerase chain reaction.
  • HIV PCR RNA is similar to the HIV DNA test and the same test is used to measure viral load.

The tests will amplify or multiply the HIV DNA or RNA in the test tube so that it can be more easily detected.

It is good practice to test babies the day they are born, and at 6 weeks and 3 months old.

If tests show the baby no longer has the mother’s antibodies to HIV when he or she is 18 months old, this is called seroreversion.

If all these tests are negative, and the mother is not breast-feeding the baby, then the baby is not HIV-positive.

The baby’s HIV drugs

A baby will need to take HIV drugs for the first four to six weeks of life.

This is most likely to be AZT, which must be taken twice a day.

In a few cases a baby may be given another drug or combination of drugs.

Last updated: 1 January 2016.