Study finds risk of MTCT of HIV increases during pregnancy and postpartum

A study conducted by researchers from the University of Washington in Seattle recently discovered that women who contracted HIV while pregnant or during postpartum were more likely to transmit the infection to their children.

The researchers compared women with chronic HIV infection to those that newly developed the infection during pregnancy or postpartum by reviewing recently published studies regarding incidents of mother-to-child transmission of HIV among both populations. The study also looked at the rate of mother-to-child HIV transmission in women from African countries and non-African countries and found the risk of transmission increased with women of African descent.

The study found that the rate of mother-to-child transmission during pregnancy and postpartum was 3.8 per 100 persons. The rate of transmission in women who contracted HIV during pregnancy or postpartum was 2.9-fold higher in women of African descent.

"Detection and prevention of incident HIV in pregnancy/postpartum should be prioritized, and is critical to decrease [mother to child transmission]," the study authors said.

Experts said the study offers important insight on mother-to-child transmission prevention initiatives, as it suggests women at-risk of HIV infection should be tested for the disease during pregnancy and postpartum. It also suggests the need for contraceptive education for women who are pregnant or in postpartum.

The results of the study were published this week in the PLOS Medicine journal.