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How come I got HIV and my siblings did not get it?

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Added 12th January 2018 05:15 PM

A woman living with HIV, who is not on ARVs and, therefore, has a high viral load can transmit HIV to her baby, while it is still in her womb, during the labour and delivery process or through breastfeeding.

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A woman living with HIV, who is not on ARVs and, therefore, has a high viral load can transmit HIV to her baby, while it is still in her womb, during the labour and delivery process or through breastfeeding.

PIC: It is advisable that when one tests HIV-positive, they should find peers living with HIV so that they support each other

HEALTH

Question
Dear doctor,
Both my parents died of AIDS and recently, I also discovered I am HIV-positive although I am a virgin and have never been transfused with blood. I am 25 years old. What is surprising is that two of my siblings who are younger than me are negative, yet I am told all of us were born normally and breastfed for more than one-and-a-half years. How come I got infected and my two younger brothers are okay?
Eunice

Answer
Dear Eunice,
Being exposed to HIV like all children born to HIV-positive mothers are does not always result into infection. A woman living with HIV, who is not on ARVs and, therefore, has a high viral load can transmit HIV to her baby, while it is still in her womb, during the labour and delivery process or through breastfeeding.

Most of the infections occur during the birth process, followed by intra-uterine infections and lastly, through breast-feeding. However, the risks are higher for example, if the placenta, which protects the baby, is damaged by infections or following a prolonged and difficult labour. That partly explains why some babies born to HIV-positive mothers get infected while others escape.

Lastly, instead of spending time trying to find why and how you could have got infected, try to learn as much as possible about HIV and how you can live positively in spite of having been born with the virus. Look out for other children and young people living with HIV so that you support each other. Peer support has been found to be helpful in developing coping mechanisms if one is to live a good quality life while living HIV.

Question answered by Dr. Stephen Watiti, HIV activist

 

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