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Frequently asked questions

Answers to some commonly asked questions about the Antenatal HIV Screening Programme

  1. Who will give me my results?
  2. What happens if the result is positive?
  3. Can the results be wrong?
  4. If I find out that I have HIV, what is the treatment?
  5. How effective is the treatment?

1. Who will give me my results?

The health professional who organised your blood tests will give you your results.

2. What happens if the result is positive?

If the HIV screening test is positive, you will be asked to go to the laboratory for confirmatory blood test.  It is still very likley that you do not have HIV, more often than not you just need to have the second blood test to make sure.

If you have a positive confirmatory (second) HIV blood test.  professional advice, help and support will be given to help you look after your health, and that of your baby, your partner and your family or whānau.  HIV is now a treatable chronic illness.  While it requires careful management and long term treatment; treatment can help you stay well and prevent you from passing on the virus to your baby.

3. Can the results be wrong?

Sometimes results from an HIV test may not be clear – it is not clear whether or not the result is positive or negative. When the first test is not clear, a second blood test will be requested to make sure that you do not have HIV.  It can take up to two weeks for those results to come back to you.  

Waiting for the result of the second test can be frightening and stressful. You will be supported by your midwife or doctor, and other health professionals if required.  Most people who need to have a second test will not have HIV so these results are usually negative.

There is a small possibility that an HIV test may be negative, even though it is later found that you have HIV. This is usually because you have been very recently infected with HIV, and the infection has not yet shown up in a blood test.  If you think you are at risk of HIV at any time in your pregnancy you can ask for another test.

4. If I find out that I have HIV, what is the treatment?

Pregnant women will usually be offered a combination of treatment and interventions:

  • medicines during pregnancy and birth to help women stay healthy for longer, and to prevent women from passing the virus on to the baby
  • advice about safe ways for the baby to be delivered
  • medicines for the baby will be offered for a few weeks after birth.  Current international evidence suggests that the medicines used before and after birth cause no harm in babies
  • advice about safe feeding for your baby. Currently in New Zealand where there is access to sterilising equipment and clean water, making artificial feeding a safe alternative, breastfeeding is not recommended for women who are HIV positive.  This policy is in line with World Health Organisation recommendations. 

5. How effective is the treatment?

There is very effective treatment available to prevent HIV being passed on to a baby.  Without treatment there is between a 31.5 percent chance the baby will be born with HIV.  With treatment, the chance of the baby being born with HIV is less than 1 percent.

Early treatment and support for mothers with HIV is also important because it helps them to remain well.