Why is rapid HIV testing important?

Tremendous strides have been made in the care of pregnant people living with HIV. Because of this progress, the risk of vertical transmission (when HIV is transmitted from birth parent to newborn) can be as low as less than 1%. Maximum reduction in transmission occurs when a person knows their HIV status early in pregnancy and receives treatment in the prenatal period and during labor, and the infant receives treatment once they are born. Some people present to labor and delivery without a documented HIV test or may require repeat HIV testing in the third trimester. In these cases a rapid HIV test on labor and delivery is necessary. It is critical that a patient's HIV status is known because appropriate medical decisions can be made at the time of delivery that have the potential to reduce the risk of HIV transmission by almost half. The sooner a doctor or nurse knows that a patient has HIV, the sooner treatment can be started, and the greater the chance the baby will be born without HIV.