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J Reprod Med. 1998 Aug;43(8):637-46.

Update on vertical HIV transmission.

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  • 1Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Iowa College of Medicine, Iowa City, USA.



To describe the factors that contribute to vertical transmission of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and review means of decreasing the risk of transmission.


Medline search of the international English-language literature pertaining to HIV in pregnancy from 1989 to the present. Special emphasis was placed on articles published in the last three years related to vertical transmission as well as to antepartum, intrapartum and postpartum management to reduce transmission.


High levels of maternal viral load and more advanced maternal disease are associated with a greater risk of vertical transmission of HIV. Antepartum and intrapartum maternal treatment with zidovudine and postpartum neonatal zidovudine treatment decreases the risk of transmission by two-thirds, at least in patients with earlier stages of the disease. Breast-feeding is a source of postpartum HIV transmission and may double the total transmission rate.


Zidovudine should be used in pregnancy to decrease the viral load and reduce transmission of HIV to the fetus. Other antiviral agents should be used during pregnancy if indicated, although current information is lacking about their effects on the fetus and any potential benefits in decreasing vertical transmission of HIV. Breast-feeding should be avoided.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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