Transmission of the HI virus from the mother to the baby occurs in 3 main ways: 

  1. During pregnancy through the placenta that surrounds and protects the baby in the mother’s stomach. The risk is greater if the mother is infected with HIV DURING the pregnancy, hence the need to practice safe sex.
  2. During the birth process and delivery of the baby as the HI virus is present in all the body fluids, the blood, mucous etc. 
  3. During breastfeeding, ESPECIALLY if the mother mixes breastfeeding with formula feeding or other foods, juices or water.


If mum-to-be knows her status and is on the PMTCT programme, both she and the baby will be given ARV (antiretroviral medicines) to reduce the chances of the baby becoming infected. If health workers know the mother’s status, there are other precautions they can take, so it’s important for mums-to-be to give birth to their baby in a health facility and not at home.