Gone are the days when HIV positive couples could only dream of having children. Innovations in medical science today has made giving birth to HIV negative babies a reality in India.
For instance, in Mumbai, the J J Hospital reported that 100 of its HIV positive mothers gave birth to perfectly healthy babies since March 2014. The hospital reports that the 100% reduction in the mother-to-baby transmission of the disease was possible because of a three-drug program that was introduced in 2014. The three drugs, Tenofovir, Lamivudine and Efavirenz, are administered daily in the form of a single tablet to be taken every night by pregnant mothers.
The Union Ministry of Health implemented the Option B+ plan, an initiative of the World Health Organisation, in March 2014, in which mothers are put on a lifelong anti-HIV course soon after finding out about their pregnancy.
Children have a 45% risk of contracting the disease from their mothers during pregnancy, and up to 25% during breastfeeding.
Previously, mothers were given a single dose of a tablet called Nevirapine, which helped to reduce the risk of transmission during 2001-02. However, there was a chance that the mothers developed resistance to the drug, and studies found that at least 11% children born to these mothers still contracted the virus in India.
The three-drug combination brought down this risk to a complete zero. The mothers can now also confidently breastfeed their babies without fears of spreading the virus.
This phenomenal success could help the 36,000 HIV positive women who get pregnant in India every year to finally be free from the fear of spreading the disease to their children.
The World Health Organisation introduced the Option B+ plan to reduce the viral load in the mother’s body. This includes putting all HIV positive pregnant women on antiretroviral therapy for life. It’s a highly beneficial move because it reduces drug intake to just one tablet, and ensures that future pregnancies are also risk-free.