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Antenatal screening has cut HIV transmission

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Routine antenatal HIV screening for pregnant women has helped reduce the rate of mother-to-child transmission, suggest latest figures from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.

Less than 1% of babies born to HIV positive mothers in the UK and Ireland are now being infected, according to the annual report of the college’s surveillance unit, published this week. This is down from 1.2% between 2000 and 2006.

Diagnosing the disease before delivery enables HIV positive mothers to take advantage of effective interventions to reduce the likelihood of passing the infection on to their child, such as antiretroviral treatment, delivery by elective caesarean and the avoidance of breastfeeding.

Without antenatal screening – which has been routinely recommended for all pregnant women in UK and Ireland since 2003 – the rate of transmission could have been as high as 25%, the report warned.

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