Pregnancy and breastfeeding with HIV

Women with HIV can pass it on to their babies during pregnancy, birth and while breastfeeding.

HIV antenatal screening

Women with HIV can pass it on to their babies during pregnancy, birth and while breastfeeding. If you’re pregnant, you’ll be offered a screening test for HIV at the same time as you have your other blood tests, as a routine part of your antenatal care. The screening programme is run by the National Screening Unit.

If you’re found to have HIV, you’ll be offered treatment that reduces the chance of your baby becoming infected from approximately 25% to less than 2%.

Breastfeeding by women with HIV infection

If you have HIV, the Ministry of Health recommends you don’t breastfeed your children.

You have the right to be fully informed about how to feed your baby.

In developing countries, the nutritional and health benefits of breastfeeding outweigh the risk of transmitting HIV. This is not the case in New Zealand, where there are safe and effective alternatives to breastfeeding.

Research from the developing world shows that women living with HIV can reduce the risk of passing HIV to an infant through breastfeeding by following a regimen of anti-retroviral therapy (ART) and exclusively breastfeeding for up to six months. However, there isn't enough research to show that this completely eliminates the risk of passing HIV on to an infant, so we recommend that women with HIV do not breastfeed.

Support for infant feeding

All parents with HIV should be offered support to make decisions around infant feeding. The support you get should be:

  • culturally appropriate
  • personalised to you
  • available anywhere in New Zealand
  • offered by trained support staff.

It should also include:

  • education around and support for feeding options, such as formula feeding
  • appropriately screened donor milk where available
  • ongoing monitoring and follow-up
  • access to treatments and medications for both you and your child as appropriate.
Back to top