The number of American babies born with HIV has plummeted by two-thirds since 2002.
Compared to 216 babies born with the virus in 2002, only 69 were born in 2013.
Experts say the progress is due to increased funding for, and access to, HIV research and antiretroviral drugs.
More than just holding promise for expectant mothers and their babies, the figures show that this could also help reduce the spread of the epidemic as a whole.
The number of babies born with HIV has fallen by almost two-thirds – from 216 in 2002 to 69 in 2013, new figures reveal (file image)
Dr Steven Nesheim, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and his team used existing HIV surveillance data to estimate the numbers and describe the characteristics of infants with perinatal HIV infection in recent years in the US.
While symptoms can differ, some of the more common ones include a failure to thrive – or not gaining weight or growing like doctors expect – and brain or nervous system problems such as seizures.
Factors associated with infant HIV infection that were studies included late maternal diagnosis and lack of antiretroviral treatment and disease prevention, according to the article.
The report found that across all races and ethnicities, the percentage of perinatal-infected infants and mothers fell between 2002 and 2013.
Additionally, Florida was the state with the highest rate of HIV-infected babies with 48 per 100,000 live births between 2010 and 2013, while 14 states had none.
A number of preventative measures to stop transmission have been released in recent years.
Particularly due to a cocktail built around the antiviral drug zidovudine, also called AZT, the rates of perinatal transmission of HIV are incredibly low in many parts of the world, such as in the US.
In fact, newborns were the first group exposed to infected blood and successfully protected with drugs from contracting HIV.
Experts agree that major progress has been made – largely due to more funding for and the availability of HIV testing and antiviral drugs.
However, globally, 400 babies are born every day with the virus, and the vast majority of them, if left untreated, will die before their fifth birthday.
‘Despite reduced perinatal HIV infection in the United States, missed opportunities for prevention were common among infected infants and their mothers in recent years,’ the authors wrote.
Florida was the state with the highest rate of HIV-infected babies with 48 per 100,000 live births between 2010 and 2013, while 14 states had none
The challenge is now shifting to not just preventing transmission but to getting women tested so that they are aware of their HIV status before they get pregnant – and then to make sure they receive and take infection-blocking drugs.
A growing number of HIV experts say that this effort does more than just hold promise for expectant moms and their babies. It could also help reduce the spread of the epidemic as a whole.
In 2015, the World Health Organization revised its guidelines and recommended initiating treatment for all people diagnosed with HIV regardless of symptoms or clinical stage.
This meant that all infected children could receive care. Of the 1.8 million children living with HIV, less than half (49 percent) had access to treatment.
While an improvement from 2010 (21 percent), there are still a number of challenges that come with treating children including a lack of training and support in providing HIV services for young people and a lack of HIV medicines developed specifically for a child’s needs.
The authors of the new report say that updated national estimates of perinatal HIV transmissions in the US are needed to guide policy and monitor progress toward the goal of eliminating mother-to-child transmission.
‘These findings suggest that new strategies and more intense public health interventions may be needed to maintain the achievements attained thus far and ultimately eliminate perinatal HIV transmission in the United States,’ the authors concluded.