Special Considerations

Part of HIV Medications: When to Start and What to Take

HIV Treatment and Women

Special Considerations

The single most significant fact that separates HIV-positive women from HIV-positive men is that more than 60 percent of women take care of at least one child under the age of 16. These women regularly have to put their children first, which means that they often can't make doctor's appointments or take their medications as prescribed.

That's why it is critical that HIV-positive women have access to services that provide not only expert HIV care, but also a social worker or case manager and specialized gynecologic and obstetric services. If you are a woman with HIV, ask your doctor about getting vouchers for babysitting and discuss any problems you have taking medications. Unfortunately, there have not been many studies focused on women‘s responses to HIV treatment. Doctors do know, however, that many women with HIV experience changes in menstrual periods, more severe cases of gynecological problems, and decreased sexual interest. If you notice any of these changes, let your doctor know.

Last but not least, too many women with HIV feel isolated. Want to connect with others? Call your local AIDS organization and get the support you need.

HIV Treatment and Pregnancy

Lots of HIV-positive women want to have children. The good news is that research has shown that pregnancy will not make HIV progress any faster in a woman who is generally in good health. The bad news is that there is no 100 percent guaranteed way to prevent an HIV-positive pregnant woman from passing HIV to her baby.

If an HIV-positive woman is not on any HIV treatment, there is about a 20 percent chance that her newborn baby will be infected. However, women can reduce the risk of infecting their babies to about 1 percent with the use of HIV medications and certain precautions. In addition, because there is HIV in the breast milk of infected mothers, HIV-positive women should not breast-feed their babies.

Many HIV medications appear to be safe for pregnant women. However, to avoid possible birth defects, pregnant women or women thinking of getting pregnant should not take Sustiva. Finally, to ensure the best for themselves and their babies, women with HIV should try to see an obstetrician who has experience treating someone who is HIV positive.

HIV Treatment for People Coinfected With Hepatitis

Many people with HIV also have hepatitis B or C. Some researchers say having both diseases may make your HIV or hepatitis (or both) worse, but research on this is still continuing. One thing that everyone agrees on is that the higher your T-cell count, the better your response to hepatitis treatment is likely to be. Plus, some HIV medications -- Viread and Epivir -- also treat hepatitis B.

The best thing to do if you have hepatitis B or C is to go to a liver specialist (an infectious disease specialist, gastro-enterologist or hepatologist) who also specializes in HIV and hepatitis coinfection.