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FAQ: Can two HIV-positive parents have an HIV-negative child?

for Veterans and the Public

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Can two HIV-positive parents have an HIV-negative child?

Yes, they can. Although an HIV-infected mother can pass the virus to her child during pregnancy, at the time of birth, or when breast-feeding the infant, medical treatment of both the mother and her infant can reduce the chances of that happening. HIV infection in both the mother and the father does not appear to affect the likelihood of having an HIV-infected baby.

HIV-infected women who need antiretroviral therapy (ART) to treat their own disease should start or continue to receive it during pregnancy. Even if a woman is not being treated with ART for her own disease, she should receive it during pregnancy to lower the risk of passing HIV to her fetus. The goal is to lower the mother's HIV viral load (the concentration of HIV in her blood) as much as possible to prevent infecting her fetus. The lower the mother's viral load during pregnancy and birth, the lower the risk of infecting her baby. A baby's chances of being born with HIV are less than 2 in 100 when the mother has a viral load so low that it's undetectable.

After delivery, the infant should receive ART for 6 weeks. In addition, the mother should avoid breast-feeding her baby to prevent transmitting the virus through her breast milk.

For their own peace of mind, HIV-infected couples wanting to have children should receive counseling, if possible, before making a decision. During counseling sessions, they should ask about the likelihood that they will survive long enough to parent effectively. They should learn how to deal with the possibility that their infant may become HIV infected. And they should learn how to cope if members of their family or community judge and stigmatize their child.