Introduction: Antiretrovirals are recommended for all pregnant women either for treatment of HIV-1 infection or for prevention of mother-to-child transmission. Distinguishing between HIV-1-infected pregnant women who meet treatment criteria and those who do not (who use antiretrovirals during pregnancy for prophylaxis) is accomplished by assessing the HIV-1 disease stage and has important implications regarding when antiretroviral drugs are initiated during pregnancy, what drugs are used and antiretroviral use after delivery. Areas covered: This review addresses antiretroviral use by HIV-1-infected women during pregnancy. Specifically, the review focuses on antiretroviral therapy for HIV-1-infected pregnant women who meet criteria for treatment and antiretroviral prophylaxis for HIV-1-infected pregnant women (to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV-1).
The review primarily addresses antiretroviral use in resource-rich settings, but use in resource-poor settings is briefly addressed. Expert opinion: Antiretrovirals represent only one component of the overall management of HIV-1 infected pregnant women and, therefore, cannot be viewed in isolation from other components of optimal care for HIV-1-infected women and from other efficacious interventions to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV-1. Antiretrovirals can be used safely and effectively during pregnancy. We concur with current guidelines regarding the threshold that differentiates which women need antiretroviral therapy for HIV-1 infection for their own health versus those who need prophylaxis to prevent transmission of HIV-1 infection to their child. We thus recommend that lifelong antiretroviral therapy be initiated in patients with an AIDS-defining illness, a CD4 count < 350 cells/mm(3) or other co-morbid conditions such as acute opportunistic infections, HIV-1-associated nephropathy or hepatitis B co-infection. Irrespective of whether or not antiretrovirals are used during pregnancy, or whether antiretrovirals during pregnancy are used for treatment or prophylaxis, all infants of HIV-1-infected women should receive antiretroviral post-exposure prophylaxis.