The best chances for the baby not getting HIV from the mother is when the mother takes antiretroviral [ARV] medications from early during pregnancy, as prescribed all the time and does not breastfeed the baby at all.


Without ARVs

With ARVs

Pregnancy and delivery

15% - 25%

2% - 10%

Breastfeeding until 18 to 24 months

10% - 20%

10% - 20%

Overall risk of Mother–to child-transmission

30% - 45%


Breastfeeding as proportion of all the overall risk of Mother–to child-transmission



PMTCT + : Implementation guidelines for health Workers. June 2006 Page 2

ARVs should be taken for the entire pregnancy or at least from the time you reach 12 weeks or 3 months in pregnancy. The decision to continue taking ARVs after pregnancy will depend on your how the HIV is affecting your body. You will need the medications for the rest of your life, if your CD4 count is 350 or below. This is to help restore your immune system and make you healthy again. 

No they are not. HIV [Human Immunodeficiency Virus] is having the viral infection only without serious damage to your immune system or other parts of your body. AIDS [Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome]  is when your immune system weakens significantly and needs help to fight infections and other diseases. When your CD4 count is 200 and less or you have an AIDS related condition you are diagnosed with AIDS.

The length of time it takes to develop AIDS may vary form person to person depending on the strength of their immune system. It can take about 8 to 10 years without treatment to develop AIDS.

ARV drugs are very strong medications. Some people have side effects and some do not. The kind of side effects will depend on the medication itself. The initial side effects usually last about 2 to 4 weeks and then stop. Common side effects to look out for are: fatigue, nausea, headache, muscle pain, dry mouth and diarrhoea.

There has been no evidence of harmful effects in infants born to HIV positive women due to ARV medications given to the mother or baby. Some babies may have a mild anaemia (low blood count) but this can be easily treated.

We are as sure as can be once all the tests results come back negative and there was no additional exposure of the baby to any source of HIV infection e.g. the mother’s breast milk, any infected blood or body fluids, or sexual molestation.

It is OK to have your baby around you. Remember that the HIV virus is passed from one person to another through sexual contact, contact with infected blood and body fluids, pregnancy, breast feeding, and needle stick injuries. 

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It is a germ that kills a special type of white blood cell in humans. White Blood Cells are necessary for the body to fight all kinds of germs. When HIV kills enough of these White Blood cells, people catch other germs and infections more easily and are sick for a longer time.

Doctors do blood tests to check the CD4 panel and Viral load. CD4 panel counts the special type of White Blood cell that HIV kills. Viral load counts the number of HIV viruses in the blood. The doctor uses these tests in all HIV infected persons to find out when treatment is necessary, to see if treatment is effective or if a change in medication is needed. The doctor may use blood tests to check if HIV is affecting other parts of the body, check for other Sexually Transmitted Infections or to check on the Side Effects of medications. Ask your Health Care Provider about any blood tests and their results.

Syphilis is a germ that usually passed from one person to another during sexual activity. When the germ gets in the body, a sore may develop. The sore can develop in the genital area, mouth or around the anus depending on which area of the body was used in sexual activity. The sore goes away in days but this does not mean you are cured. 

Yes. Syphilis is cured by antibiotics, preferably a form of Penicillin given by injection. 

Yes. If you have caught syphilis before and you get exposed to it again you will catch it again. This is why it is very important to get all partners treated if you have had Syphilis. Even if your partner has no symptoms, you should stop having sexual activity with that partner until s/he is treated.

Following treatment, you should try to use safer sex* practices.

Signs of Syphilis include sore which resolves on its own within a few days. Then a rash may develop. The rash may also resolve and then a person may have no symptoms for years. Then, the person may have serious signs and symptoms of syphilis in different parts of the body. There are blood tests to check if you have syphilis. Visit your nearest Health centre to get tested and treated for syphilis.

Syphilis can have serious consequences for your baby. You can lose the baby at any point in the pregnancy, or the baby can be born alive and die shortly after birth. If the baby is infected, the baby can have problems such as jaundice, low blood count, be too small or have infection in the brain.  If you are pregnant and have syphilis you must be treated as soon as possible to prevent your baby from getting sick. After you have the baby, the baby must be tested as soon as possible and treated too.