Baby Dies of AIDS After Mother's HIV Not Diagnosed

The Israel AIDS Task Force lauds a decision to be implemented next year under which every pregnant woman will be advised to take an HIV test.

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A baby died of AIDS at a Jerusalem hospital last week, having contracted the disease from her mother.

The baby, who was just a few months old, had spent much of her short life in the pediatric intensive care unit at Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Karem. But doctors were unable to save her and she died a few days ago. The hospital has informed the Health Ministry.

According to sources familiar with the case, neither the mother’s doctors nor apparently the woman herself knew that she had AIDS. The disease was discovered only after the baby was born, so no steps were taken during pregnancy to keep the fetus from being infected.

Even after the birth, the baby wasn’t immediately diagnosed with AIDS, so she wasn’t treated accordingly, the sources said. The mother was apparently never tested for HIV; she was not in any known risk group.

According to the Health Ministry, 221 babies have been born in Israel with HIV since 1981, but very few had AIDS.

On average, five HIV carriers are born here every year, though the number was eight in 2011 and seven in 2012. In most cases, the virus is diagnosed shortly after birth, if not beforehand, letting the infant receive treatment that allows for a largely normal life.

In cases where the mother isn’t known to be an HIV carrier or an AIDS patient, the baby has a 25 percent chance of contracting the disease during pregnancy and a 10 percent chance of contracting it through the mother’s milk for every year of nursing. But in cases where a pregnant women is known to be an AIDS patient or a carrier, the disease can be prevented from spreading to the fetus in 99 percent of cases.

Therefore, the assumption is that the current death stemmed from a lack of knowledge, as neither mother nor child had been diagnosed with AIDS.

Hadassah declined to comment on the case for reasons of medical confidentiality.

The Israel AIDS Task Force said it wasn’t familiar with the case and therefore couldn’t comment on the specifics. “But it’s sad to hear that in 2014, babies with HIV are still being born in Israel and, even worse, dying of the disease,” the task force said in a statement.

“We hope the lessons will be learned so that such cases don’t recur. The task force’s position is that the Health Ministry must instruct doctors to advise every pregnant woman to undergo an HIV test, a position that was recently adopted by the health minister and will be implemented starting in 2015. Until then, we urge women to ask their family doctor to include an HIV test in the basket of tests performed during pregnancy.”

Newly-born child blood sampling.Credit: Dreamstime
AIDS testing at a clinic of the Israel AIDS Task Force in Tel Aviv, Jan. 15, 2008.Credit: Nir Kafri
Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem.Credit: Shiran Granot