Pregnancy and breastfeeding with HIV

People with HIV can pass it on to their babies during pregnancy, birth, and while breastfeeding.

HIV antenatal screening

People with HIV can pass it on to their babies during pregnancy, birth and while breastfeeding. If you are pregnant, you willl be offered a screening test for HIV at the same time as you have your other blood tests. This is a routine part of your antenatal care.

HIV testing in pregnancy (internal link)

If you are found to have HIV, you will be offered treatment that reduces the chance of your pēpi (baby) becoming infected from approximately 25% to less than 2%.

Breastfeeding by people with HIV infection

If you have HIV, we recommend you do not breastfeed.

You have the right to be fully informed about how to feed your pēpi (baby).

In developing countries, the nutritional and health benefits of breastfeeding outweigh the risk of transmitting HIV. This is not the case in Aotearoa New Zealand, where there are safe and effective alternatives to breastfeeding.

Research from the developing world shows that people living with HIV can reduce the risk of passing HIV to an infant through breastfeeding by:

  • following a regimen of anti-retroviral therapy, and
  • exclusively breastfeeding for up to 6 months.

However, there is not enough research to show that this completely eliminates the risk of passing HIV on to an infant, so we recommend that people with HIV do not breastfeed.

Support for infant feeding

All parents with HIV should be offered support to make decisions around infant feeding. The support you get should be:

  • culturally appropriate
  • personalised to you
  • available anywhere in Aotearoa New Zealand
  • offered by trained support staff.

It should also include:

  • education around and support for feeding options, such as formula feeding
  • appropriately screened donor milk where available
  • ongoing monitoring and follow-up
  • access to treatments and medications for both you and your child as appropriate.