Each year on December 1st, we recognize World AIDS Day. We remember the people who have passed from HIV/AIDS, those that are living with it, and make a commitment to fighting this illness. As a Doula, I am happy to support all kinds of clients and families, including those touched by HIV/AIDS. I know how precious the experience of becoming a parent can be to a person, especially in the face of a health challenge. Everyone deserves to be fully supported and empowered during such an awesome time as when they build their families.
About 37 million people worldwide are living with HIV, with approximately 75,000 of those people living in Canada. Though HIV was once a death sentence for those who tested positive, people who have HIV today can expect to live longer, healthier lives than ever before. This is in part due to better treatments that result in undetectable levels of the virus in the body, as well as a reduction in stigma surrounding an HIV diagnosis.
With the possibility of an extended life comes the possibility of so many things! For some, this includes children. At one time, there was a high risk that children born to someone living with HIV would be born with HIV. The risk, and the feelings associated with it, was a major deterrent to having children for many people.
But what are the risks now? If a pregnant person who is HIV positive has an undetectable viral level, but are not taking antiretroviral medications, the chance that their baby will be born with HIV is about 1 in 4. However, if the same person was to consistently take antiretroviral medications (as well as their baby for the first few weeks of life), the chances of their baby developing HIV drops to less than 1 in 100! That is a difference of 25% to less than 1%!
If you would like to know more about pregnancy and HIV, there is a quick article here that will answer some of your questions!
While there is so much more work to be done to overcome the HIV/AIDS epidemic, people living with HIV have no reason to give up on achieving their dreams. With all kinds of medical and non-medical supports (like Doulas!), parents living with HIV can chase their life goals...like having empowering birth experiences and raising healthy, happy, wonderful children.