Why is rapid HIV testing important?

Tremendous strides have been made in the care of pregnant women living with HIV. Because of this progress the risk of vertical transmission (when HIV is transmitted from a mother to her baby) can be as low as less than 1%. Maximum reduction in transmission occurs when a woman knows her HIV status early in pregnancy and receives treatment in the prenatal period and during labor and her infant receives treatment once he or she is born. Some women 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 woman’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 woman has HIV, the sooner treatment can be started, and the greater the chance her baby will be born without HIV.