Women who have no idea they are infected with HIV are more likely to pass the infection on to infants at birth. If an infant tests positive for HIV, an anti-HIV drug is administered immediately after birth and for several weeks after birth. Recent research reveals using multiple drugs after birth greatly reduces the risk of infant HIV infection. 

A study by the National Institutes of Health links multi-drug HIV treatment to reduced risk of mother to infant transmission. Currently, medical protocol states Zidovudine alone is administered to infants. In the study, researchers combined Zidovudine with two or more anti-HIV drugs to test the effect on HIV transmission, with fantastic results. 

Nineteen research institutions participated in the NOW study. More than 1,600 infants were divided into three groups. The first group received standard after-birth HIV care using Zidovudine for six weeks. The second group received Zidovudine combined with three doses of Nevirapine (given only in the first week after delivery). The third group received six weeks of Zidovudine, Lamivudine and Nelfinavir. Lamivudine and Nelfinavir were administered for two weeks post delivery. 

About 5% of the infants in group one tested positive for HIV at three months. Infants receiving the two-drug therapy tested positive in 2.2% of cases. The three-drug group reported 2.5% infection rate. 

Source: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Heather Watts, M.D., aldilea Gonçalves Veloso, Fiocruz Institute, Rio de Janeiro; Yvonne J. Bryson, David Geffen School of Medicine; Esau C. Joao, Servants of the State Hospital, Rio de Janeiro;, Jose Henrique Pilotto, General Hospital of Nova Iguacu, Nova Iguacu, Brazil; Glenda Gray, Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, Johannesburg; Gerhard Theron, Tygerberg Hospital, Capetown, South Africa; James Bethel, Westat, Inc., Rockville, Md.; and Lynne Mofenson, NICHD. 4 March, 2011.