Mother-child HIV transmission at all time low in U.K. and Ireland

December 8, 2016, University College London
HIV budding. Credit: C. Goldsmith, source: Wikimedia

The number of mothers passing the HIV virus to their babies has fallen to a new record low in the UK and Ireland thanks to the very high take-up of antenatal HIV screening and treatment which reduces virus levels in the pregnant women, according to research led by UCL.

The proportion of passing on the virus to their babies fell to a new low of 0.27% in 2012-2014, with only seven infected babies born in this period to women diagnosed with HIV.

This compares with 0.46% in 2010-2012 reported two years ago, and with 2.1% in 2000-2001. The data was compiled by the National Study of HIV in Pregnancy and Childhood, a long-running national surveillance study, which is supported by Public Health England. The data was published in a research letter to Clinical Infectious Diseases.

In the UK there is a very high uptake of antenatal HIV screening, estimated at 97%, which is recommended for all , and there are clear standards and guidelines for the management of pregnant women with HIV.

The chance of a baby being infected depends mainly on the extent the virus is present in the pregnant woman. The reasons behind the continuing decline in vertical transmission are largely linked to treatment, which reduces virus levels. As a result of the treatment, around 90% of women now have "undetectable" levels of in their blood by the time they deliver.

"It is uncertain whether the transmission rate will decline further. We are continuing to monitor this as well as the circumstances around the small number of new infant infections, which tend to be highly complex," said Dr Claire Thorne (UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health).

"To maintain, or possibly improve on the current rate requires continued early testing for HIV in pregnancy and appropriate support for all women living with HIV – before, during and after their pregnancy."   

There are around 35,000 women living with HIV in the UK.  Every year around 1200 women living with HIV become pregnant in the UK.  If a pregnant woman is unaware that she has HIV, her baby has approximately a one in four chance of becoming infected.

Appropriate interventions to prevent mother-to-child transmission include use of anti-HIV drugs, elective caesarean section in some cases and avoiding breastfeeding.

Explore further: CDC updates guidelines on sexual transmission of Zika

More information: Helen Peters et al. UK Mother to Child HIV Transmission Rates Continue to Decline: 2012-2014, Clinical Infectious Diseases (2016). DOI: 10.1093/cid/ciw791

Related Stories

CDC updates guidelines on sexual transmission of Zika

July 26, 2016
(HealthDay)—U.S. health officials on Monday updated their Zika virus guidelines, saying that pregnant women could contract Zika from a sex partner of either gender.

Mother to child HIV transmission at record low in the UK

February 25, 2014
The rate of mother to child HIV transmission is at an all-time low in the UK, according to a paper published today in the journal AIDS.

US details cases of nine pregnant women with Zika virus

February 27, 2016
US health authorities Friday described the cases of nine pregnant women who contracted the Zika virus while traveling, two of whom chose abortion and one who gave birth to a baby with microcephaly.

Canada reports first Zika-linked birth defect

August 12, 2016
Canada Friday confirmed its first case of a birth defect related to the mosquito-borne Zika virus.

Two pregnant women in Norway test positive for Zika virus

March 10, 2016
Health authorities in Norway say two pregnant women have tested positive for the zika virus after traveling in Latin America.

Zika: Puerto Rico the latest to warn against getting pregnant

January 28, 2016
The US territory of Puerto Rico joined several Latin American countries in recommending Thursday that women avoid getting pregnant for now to protect against the fast-spreading Zika virus.

Recommended for you

Researchers find latent HIV reservoirs inherently resistant to elimination by CD8+ T-cells

January 22, 2018
The latest "kick-and-kill" research to eliminate the HIV virus uncovered a potential obstacle in finding a cure. A recent study by researchers at the George Washington University (GW) found that latent HIV reservoirs show ...

HIV-1 genetic diversity is higher in vaginal tract than in blood during early infection

January 18, 2018
A first-of-its-kind study has found that the genetic diversity of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) is higher in the vaginal tract than in the blood stream during early infection. This finding, published in PLOS ...

War in Ukraine has escalated HIV spread in the country: study

January 15, 2018
Conflict in Ukraine has increased the risk of HIV outbreaks throughout the country as displaced HIV-infected people move from war-affected regions to areas with higher risk of transmission, according to analysis by scientists.

Researchers offer new model for uncovering true HIV mortality rates in Zambia

January 12, 2018
A new study that seeks to better ascertain HIV mortality rates in Zambia could provide a model for improved national and regional surveillance approaches, and ultimately, more effective HIV treatment strategies.

New drug capsule may allow weekly HIV treatment

January 9, 2018
Researchers at MIT and Brigham and Women's Hospital have developed a capsule that can deliver a week's worth of HIV drugs in a single dose. This advance could make it much easier for patients to adhere to the strict schedule ...

New long-acting, less-toxic HIV drug suppresses virus in humanized mice

January 8, 2018
A team of Yale researchers tested a new chemical compound that suppresses HIV, protects immune cells, and remains effective for weeks with a single dose. In animal experiments, the compound proved to be a promising new candidate ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.