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Pediatric Infectious Diseases

Pediatric HIV Preventable, Treatable

Pediatric HIV Preventable, Treatable
“Testing the baby for HIV is done in the first 24 hours of life and is repeated three additional times before the baby is 6 months of age, ” says Dr. Stovall.
HIV-positive women who are pregnant carry a risk of transmitting the virus to their baby during pregnancy, labor or delivery. But, according to Stephanie Stovall, M.D., pediatric infectious disease specialist, there are effective ways to prevent mother-tochild transmission.

“The first and most important step is for the mom to receive good antiretroviral medications that keep her HIV suppressed during pregnancy and through delivery,” Dr. Stovall explains. “Many anti-HIV medications are very safe to take during pregnancy.

Additionally, HIV-infected women are instructed to immediately seek care at the onset of labor so that anti-HIV medications can be started intravenously and continued through labor and delivery. This medication also is given to the baby just after birth and for the first 42 days of life. Pregnant women who have high viral loads—or high levels of HIV in the blood—typically deliver by caesarean section in order to lessen the exposure to the baby.”

Testing the baby for HIV is done in the first 24 hours of life and is repeated three additional times before the baby is 6 months of age, Dr. Stovall says. Often, there aren’t signs or symptoms of illness during the first several months of the baby’s life. “The baby’s immune system is relatively unaffected by HIV at first,” Dr. Stovall says. “Older infants and children may have recurrent or persistent thrush, rashes, otitis, pneumonia, swollen lymph nodes or chronic skin conditions.”

Pediatric HIV is very treatable, Dr. Stovall says. And, with good newborn screening— which starts with appropriate prenatal care and testing for pregnant women—most babies who become infected with HIV are diagnosed before they develop the immune suppression associated with AIDS. “Pediatric HIV requires adherence to medication regimens,” she says. “However, if this is done, most—if not all—infected children will grow up healthy without significant effects on their day-to-day lives. They are fully capable for careers, family life, sports…the sky is the limit.”

Dr. Stovall adds that it is important to help infected children and adolescents understand their disease and de-stigmatize it in society. “Information helps children cope with the effects of chronic disease,” she says. “It allows them some control over their lives. Helping them get involved in their medical care early on can improve the chances of successful adherence during the teen years and make the transition to adulthood easier.”

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Stephanie Stovall, M.D.
Pediatric Infectious Disease
Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida
9981 S. HealthPark Drive
Suite 454
Fort Myers, FL 33908
239-343-9710

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