Purpose of review
Today, 50% of people living with HIV are women and most have been sexually infected. Highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) reduces the rates of both sexual and vertical infection, but maximum protection is achieved with sperm washing and elective Caesarean section.
Men taking HAART have lower seminal concentration of HIV, and sexual transmission may be reduced. However, a certain percentage of aviraemic men retain viral presence in semen, and unprotected intercourse to achieve fertilization must be discouraged as it carries the risk of sexual transmission of the virus. HIV-discordant couples should be informed that sperm washing can remove HIV from semen, allowing conception without the risk of infection for the seronegative female and eventually the child. In HIV-positive women, perinatal transmission of HIV can be curtailed to less than 2% by using HAART to decrease maternal viral load and offering prenatal preexposure prophylaxis of the fetus, and elective Caesarean section. Each intervention carries specific risks and benefits. The contribution of each preventive arm in achieving fetal protection can only be crudely measured and optimal obstetric management must involve discussion with the pregnant woman of the pros and cons of each strategy.
In HIV-positive men taking HAART, seminal viral load is decreased but not eliminated and fertilization should be achieved through sperm washing to offer maximum protection for the uninfected female. Pregnant HIV-positive women on antiretroviral medication have a reduced risk of transmitting the virus, but should still be counselled about the possibility to further limit the chances of infecting their infant through elective Caesarean section.