Mother-to-child transmission of HIV in Australia and other high-income countries: Trends in perinatal exposure, demography and uptake of prevention strategies

Aust N Z J Obstet Gynaecol. 2018 Oct;58(5):499-505. doi: 10.1111/ajo.12825. Epub 2018 May 22.


Virtual elimination of mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a global target. A review of the literature was conducted using medical databases and health department websites to examine the current trends related to perinatal HIV exposure and MTCT in Australia in comparison with other high-income countries (HICs). The review discusses the uptake of prevention strategies and barriers that impede MTCT prevention. The literature suggests an increase in the numbers of HIV-exposed deliveries, but a marked decline in the rates of MTCT within HICs. MTCT remains high when the mother's HIV infection is diagnosed late or postpartum. Data supports increasing trends of perinatal HIV exposure in migrant populations from low- and middle-income countries (particularly African women). Increased uptake and earlier initiation of antiretroviral therapy (ART) was associated with overall MTCT decline. Caesarean section remains the main mode of delivery described; however, the numbers of planned vaginal deliveries are increasing over time. Heterogeneity of data periods and outcome measures within published literature made comparisons between countries difficult. Future development should focus on clear national guidelines and a potential national database for perinatal HIV, culturally appropriate service provision, and more evidence on acute infections in pregnancy and the effects that longer duration and increased uptake of ART has on the fetus and resistance to ART.

Keywords: HIV; Australia; high-income; mother-to-child transmission; perinatal.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Australia
  • Demography
  • Developed Countries
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control
  • HIV Infections / transmission*
  • Humans
  • Infectious Disease Transmission, Vertical / prevention & control*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / prevention & control*
  • Prenatal Care*