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  1. Cibulka, Nancy J. PhD, APRN, BC, RN


OVERVIEW: With the rise in the number of HIV-infected women of childbearing age in the United States, nurses are increasingly likely to be caring for such women. Although the exact mechanism of mother-to-child HIV transmission is unknown, experts believe that it can occur during any of three stages: before birth by microtransfusion of maternal blood across the placenta, during labor and delivery by exposure to maternal cervicovaginal secretions and blood, and after birth through breastfeeding. Treating pregnant women with highly active antiretroviral therapy dramatically reduces the risk of such transmission, but little is known about long-term effects of such therapy on the children. This article reviews the literature on the risk of mother-to-child HIV transmission in the United States and the factors that influence that risk, details current practice recommendations, and discusses implications for nursing.