HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. This is a pathogen that damages the immune system- your body's own defenses. People who are infected with HIV can develop AIDS. This is a disorder of the immune system that prevents the body from defending itself properly against bacteria, fungi or viruses and can cause serious illness. Without treatment, HIV can be passed on to the baby during pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding. The same applies to hepatitis B and hepatitis C. These infections are also caused by viruses and are transmitted through blood or other body fluids, for example when using drugs with contaminated syringes. Approximately one in ten to one in six people living with HIV also have hepatitis C. Hepatitis B is also more common in individuals with HIV. Doctors can use drugs to prevent pregnant people from passing on HIV, hepatitis B or hepatitis C to their baby.
Today, HIV is treatable. Although no cure is possible, AIDS can be prevented with the help of medication. People with HIV can live well and for a long time as a result. You can have an HIV test as early as your first prenatal check-up during the fourth to eighth week of pregnancy. You should definitely take advantage of this offer. This is the only way doctors can protect your child from the transmission of the virus in the event of an infection. For this, the therapy must begin during pregnancy. Your maternity record (Mutterpass) only records that you have had an HIV test. The result is not there. If the test is positive, you decide who to tell. However, it is important that your doctors and midwife know about this. They can also treat your baby with HIV medication as a preventive measure after delivery or recommend that you have a caesarean section because they have detected a high viral load in your blood.
HIV therapy involves the administration of various drugs that slow down how the virus replicates in the blood. After a few months, the virus should hardly be detectable in the blood, meaning it can no longer be transmitted during procreation, pregnancy or birth. In this case, you can also deliver your baby vaginally, without a caesarean section. Even if you are HIV-positive and not pregnant, but wish to have a child, you should definitely start HIV therapy. There are clinics and practices that specialise in this. The drugs used for HIV therapy are usually well tolerated and can also be taken during pregnancy. It is important that you take the drugs exactly as the doctors have told you.
Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. It can have various causes, but is most often caused by viruses. This is true for hepatitis B and hepatitis C, two common forms of the disease. Hepatitis B can be transmitted to the baby during pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding. That's why your blood will be tested for hepatitis B at the prenatal checkup at 32 to 36 weeks of pregnancy. The safest protection against hepatitis B is vaccination. If you are planning to get pregnant, you should check if you have been vaccinated against hepatitis B. If not, you should get vaccinated as soon as possible. There is no vaccination against hepatitis C yet. If you are infected with hepatitis C, you should always be tested for other sexually transmitted diseases. Tell your doctors if you have hepatitis C. Then they can take appropriate measures to significantly reduce the risk of your baby becoming infected during or after birth.
If you have hepatitis C and want to have a baby, you should get treatment for the disease before you get pregnant. Hepatitis C is almost always curable. Therapy usually lasts three months, but often up to six months. Before you get pregnant, you should have been on treatment for at least six months, because hepatitis C drugs can cause serious harm to the fetus. Hepatitis B causes few symptoms in many people who are infected with it. However, if a child contracts the disease from its mother, a permanent inflammation of the liver can develop over time. It can later destroy the liver and lead to death. Doctors can prevent such life-threatening situations if they know before delivery that the pregnant person is infected. To this end, the baby is given hepatitis B antibodies and a vaccination against hepatitis B immediately after birth. In most cases, the virus does not enter the baby's body during pregnancy, but only at birth. If receive targeted treatment then, they will be spared from the disease.
You can find good information about HIV and hepatitis as well as the therapies and treatments available on the Aidshilfe website at www.aidshilfe.de and from the Early Help Network (Netzwerk Frühe Hilfen). Both organisations have been around for a long time. They have a lot of experience with these issues and offer free telephone counselling as well as online and face-to-face counselling.