HIV-Positive Women Who Become Pregnant Less Likely To Develop AIDS, Die of AIDS-Related Causes, Study Says
HIV-positive women who become pregnant are less likely to develop AIDS or die of AIDS-related causes than HIV-positive women who do not become pregnant, according to a study published in the Oct. 1 issue of the Journal of Infectious Diseases, VOA News reports (De Capua, VOA News, 9/19).
For the study, Timothy Sterling of Vanderbilt University and colleagues examined 759 HIV-positive women from 1997 to 2004 to determine how pregnancy affects HIV progression. Of the 759 women, 540 received highly active antiretroviral therapy, and 139 had at least one pregnancy during the study. The researchers found that the women who became pregnant had a lower risk of HIV progression both before and after pregnancy (ANI/Newindpress.com, 9/20).
Sterling said it is unclear why the women who became pregnant were less likely to progress to AIDS but added that they overall were healthier than the women who did not become pregnant. Women who became pregnant had lower HIV viral loads, were younger and were more likely to receive treatment than those who did not become pregnant, Sterling said. The researchers adjusted for such factors and found that "women who became pregnant were still less likely to progress to AIDS or death," he said. Previous studies found either a slight increased risk or no risk of HIV progression among HIV-positive women who became pregnant, VOA News reports.
Sterling said more research is necessary to determine why women who become pregnant are less likely to develop AIDS. He added that pregnant women might be "highly motivated" to receive treatment to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission. "Perhaps that additional motivation facilitated them in doing better," Sterling said, adding that the pregnant women in the study received more intensive care, visited the clinic more frequently and were more likely to receive dietary supplements.
Kathryn Anastos of Montefiore Medical Center at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in an accompanying JID editorial writes that the study's findings are "extremely important" for HIV-positive women in "higher-resource settings and perhaps for women in lower-resource settings." She adds, "Women can now have greater confidence that, in addition to protecting their children from mother-to-child transmission with antiretroviral drugs, their own health will not be compromised by pregnancy" (VOA News, 9/19).
The study is available online.