Almost every minute of every day, a baby is born with HIV, passed on by their mother during pregnancy, labour or delivery. In 2008, an estimated 387,000 babies were born with HIV. 

With the right care and monitoring, the risk that a woman will pass the virus to her baby can be reduced from one-third to less than one in 50.

How can transmission be prevented?

Services to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV include counselling, medicine and testing for HIV. The mother receives a course of treatment for three months before she gives birth and a tablet when she goes into labour. The baby is then given some medicated syrup soon after birth. Once the baby is born, mothers are counselled on infant-feeding options to reduce the risk of transmission through breastfeeding.

UNICEF also supports the development of these prevention services as a starting point for providing treatment, care and support to whole families, so that the baby that is born free does not grow up an orphan.

What progress have we made?

The good news is that access to these prevention services has increased in recent years and 45% of pregnant women with HIV now receive anti-retroviral prophylaxis to reduce the risk of transmission of the virus to their babies. 

UNICEF is working to ensure that all pregnant women with HIV receive the right medicine and care to prevent them passing HIV onto their baby. Our aim is to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV by 2015.

 
Elson's mum learned she was HIV-positive while pregnant with him. She took part in a UNICEF-supported mother-to-child prevention programme during her pregnancy and through Elson’s first 18 months. Elson is now 21-months old and HIV-negative © UNICEF/NYHQ2011-0266/CHRISTINE NESBITT
Elson's mum learned she was HIV-positive while pregnant with him. She took part in a UNICEF-supported mother-to-child prevention programme during her pregnancy and through Elson’s first 18 months. Elson is now 21-months old and HIV-negative.© UNICEF/NYHQ2011-0266/CHRISTINE NESBITT