Impact of Maternal HIV Seroconversion during Pregnancy on Early Mother to Child Transmission of HIV (MTCT) Measured at 4-8 Weeks Postpartum in South Africa 2011-2012: A National Population-Based Evaluation

PLoS One. 2015 May 5;10(5):e0125525. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0125525. eCollection 2015.


Background: Mother-to-child transmission of HIV (MTCT) depends on the timing of HIV infection. We estimated HIV-seroconversion during pregnancy (HSP) after having a HIV-negative result antenatally, and its contribution to early MTCT in South Africa (SA).

Methods and findings: Between August 2011 and March 2012, we recruited a nationally representative sample of mother-infant pairs with infants aged 4-to-8 weeks from 578 health facilities. Data collection included mother interviews, child health-card reviews, and infant dried-blood-spots sample (iDBS). iDBS were tested for HIV antibodies and HIV-deoxyribonucleic-acid (HIV-DNA). HSP was defined as maternal self-report of an HIV-negative test during this pregnancy, no documented use of antiretroviral drugs and a matched HIV sero-positive iDBS. We used 20 imputations from a uniform distribution for time from reported antenatal HIV-negative result to delivery to estimate time of HSP. Early MTCT was defined based on detection of HIV-DNA in iDBS. Estimates were adjusted for clustering, nonresponse, and weighted by SA's 2011 live-births.

Results: Of 9802 mother-infant pairs, 2738 iDBS were HIV sero-positive, including 212 HSP, resulting in a nationally weighted estimate of 3.3% HSP (95% Confidence Interval: 2.8%-3.8%). Median time of HIV-seroconversion was 32.8weeks gestation;28.3% (19.7%- 36.9%) estimated to be >36 weeks. Early MTCT was 10.7% for HSP (6.2%-16.8%) vs. 2.2% (1.7%-2.8%) for mothers with known HIV-positive status. Although they represent 2.2% of all mothers and 6.7% of HIV-infected mothers, HSP accounted for 26% of early MTCT. Multivariable analysis indicated the highest risk for HSP was among women who knew the baby's father was HIV-infected (adjusted-hazard ratio (aHR) 4.71; 1.49-14.99), or who had been screened for tuberculosis (aHR 1.82; 1.43-2.32).

Conclusions: HSP risk is high and contributes significantly to early MTCT. Identification of HSP by repeat-testing at 32 weeks gestation, during labor, 6 weeks postpartum, in tuberculosis-exposed women, and in discordant couples might reduce MTCT.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antibodies, Viral / blood
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / diagnosis*
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control
  • HIV Infections / transmission*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infectious Disease Transmission, Vertical / prevention & control*
  • Lactation
  • Postpartum Period
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / diagnosis*
  • Seroconversion
  • South Africa


  • Antibodies, Viral