The globally accepted strategy for comprehensive prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV includes four elements or prongs:
- Primary prevention of HIV infection. Preventing HIV infection in women, including those who are pregnant or breastfeeding, is the most efficient way to avoid HIV infections in infants—and it saves women’s lives as well. Programs and policy makers can give attention to strengthening primary prevention services, such as counseling and testing, and condom provision to reduce the risk of sexual HIV transmission.
- Preventing unintended pregnancies in women with HIV. Family planning provides couples with HIV an opportunity to prevent unintended pregnancies and to avoid having children who are infected with HIV. Strengthening family planning programs for all women, especially in high prevalence settings, will reach many infected women who still do not know their status and need family planning.
- Preventing vertical transmission or HIV transmission from women to their infants. The risk that a woman with HIV will transmit the virus to her infant can be reduced in a number of ways—prophylaxis with ARVs during pregnancy and breastfeeding, cesarean-section delivery, and following safe infant feeding practices.
- Providing care, treatment and support for mothers with HIV and their children. Offering ongoing care, treatment, and support for mothers with HIV and their infants helps to ensure the mother’s health and to protect the child’s health and development.