Taking anti-HIV medication during pregnancy is safe and does not influence birth outcomes or early infant growth.
Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is used to keep HIV-negative people from becoming infected, and has been shown to have no effect on unborn babies.
Results from a large PrEP implementation programme in hospitals in western Kenya, revealed that birth and infant growth outcomes in babies of women who took the drug and those in placebo group were the same.
When taken every day consistently, the anti-retroviral drug Truvada, a combination of tenofovir and emtricitabine, reduces new infections by 95 per cent.
“There were no side effects in pregnant women who took part in the study,” revealed the study findings. The weight, length and the height of the babies was the same in mothers who took PrEP and those who didn’t. Many women feared that the drug might act as a boosting factor in the weight of their babies, but there was no such effect,” said Dr Julia Dettinger, the principal investigator and research scientist at the Department of Global Health at the University of Washington in the US.
The study enrolled pregnant women and girls aged 15 years and above, who tested negative for tuberculosis, and had resided in the study area for at least a year. Eligible women also planned to receive postnatal and infant care at the study facility.
The study conducted by the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) enrolled 4,000 participants from 20 clinics in western Kenya.
“We wanted to know the safety of delivering PrEP to pregnant and postpartum women. We have found that PrEP is an effective and safe female-controlled intervention for preventing HIV acquisition including in at-risk pregnant and breastfeeding women,” said Dr Dettinger.
The drug has been studied in pregnant women living with HIV and there is no known increased chance of birth defects, growth problems, or complications during pregnancy, including preterm birth and miscarriage.
Dr Dettinger, however, recommended additional safety data on PrEP use during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.