Pregnancy May Offer Some Protection Against Full-Blown AIDS
Voice of America News (09.19.07): Joe De Capua
A new study says pregnancy may help protect HIV-positive women from developing AIDS. Senior author Dr. Timothy Sterling of Vanderbilt University said the study's findings for HIV-positive women taking antiretrovirals were unexpected. "We found that the women who became pregnant during the study period had a lower risk of progressing to AIDS-defining events or death than women who did not become pregnant. This was an observational study just looking at 759 women who were seen at some point during the study period, which was between January 1997 and December 2004."
The researchers found that the women who became pregnant were healthier, with higher CD4 counts and lower viral loads. They were also younger and more likely to receive therapy. After performing analyses to adjust for those factors, however, the authors found that women who became pregnant were still less likely to proceed to AIDS or death, according to Sterling . He said another study is needed to try to formally pinpoint the reason for the benefit.
"It could be that the pregnant women were highly motivated to have their HIV treated, obviously to prevent transmission into the fetus, and to take as good care of themselves as possible," Sterling suggested. He noted that the pregnant women had more frequent visits to the comprehensive care center the study used, were more likely to get dietary supplements, and were less likely to be using drugs.
Studies conducted before antiretrovirals came into use indicated that pregnancy showed either no increased risk of progression to AIDS or a lightly increased risk.
In an accompanying editorial, Dr. Kathryn Anastos wrote, "For women in higher-resource settings and perhaps for women in lower resource settings, the findings are. extremely important. "Women can now have greater confidence that, in addition to protecting their children from mother-to-child transmission with antiretroviral drugs, their own health will not be compromised by pregnancy," Anastos added.
The study, "Pregnancy and HIV Disease Progression During the Era of Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy," and the editorial, "Good News for Women Living with HIV," appeared in the Journal of Infectious Diseases (2007;196(7):1044-1052 and 971-973 respectively).
S. Alex Williams