The rate of transmission of HIV from pregnant mothers to children has decreased by 38% as compared to last year, doctors at Bai Jerbai Wadia Hospital for Children said on Saturday.

Ahead of World AIDS Day on Sunday, Dr. Ira Shah, professor and head, paediatric infectious diseases at the hospital, said, “Previously, the transmission percentage was around 40%, but now it has gone down to as less as two per cent.”

She said during pregnancy, HIV can be passed through the placenta and infect the foetus. “Likewise, during labour and delivery, the baby may be exposed to the virus in the mother’s blood and other fluids, and even the virus can be transmitted while breastfeeding the baby.”

As per data from the United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS), India has around 2.1 million people living with HIV.

Dr. Minnie Bodhanwala, CEO, Wadia Hospitals, said Bai Jerbai Wadia Hospital for Children was the first to introduce HIV treatment for children. “By providing free HIV treatment to newborns, we are trying our best to bring down the HIV cases.”

Dr. Shah said HIV is one such disease which can be treated but cannot be cured. “Taking anti-HIV drugs can help pregnant women improve their quality of life and lower the chances of passing the virus to their newborns. The anti-HIV drugs can be given to the baby after birth as well. But unfortunately, there is no vaccine to prevent HIV.”

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