AIDS Affairs: Syphilis and pregnancy

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October 25, 2016

Dear Counsellor,

I went to the doctor with my baby as he was feeling ill, and the doctor told me he has birth-acquired herpes. What is birth-acquired herpes?

J.T.

Dear J.T.,

Birth-acquired herpes is a herpes virus infection that a baby gets while in the womb. The infection can also develop during or shortly after birth. Babies with birth-acquired herpes get the infection from mothers who are infected with genital herpes. Birth-acquired herpes is sometimes also called "congenital herpes".

Babies with congenital herpes may have a skin infection, a system-wide infection called 'systemic herpes', or both. Systemic herpes is dangerous and can cause a variety of serious complications. These complications may include brain damage, breathing problems, and seizures. Please follow your doctor's instructions carefully and protect the baby from any further complications.

Counsellor

Dear Counsellor,

Can you tell me a little about syphilis and pregnancy? I had syphilis some time ago but would like to get pregnant, and a friend of mine is telling me that my baby could be infected. When I realised I was infected with syphilis, I went straight to the doctor and was treated. My boyfriend was also treated.

D.J.

Dear DJ,

If you and your boyfriend were treated for syphilis and are completely cured, then you would not infect the baby. Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection, so if you continue to have unprotected sex and you become infected again, then you could infect your baby through the placenta during pregnancy or by contact with a sore during birth.

An infection with syphilis can be very mild and you can be infected without knowing, or you could mistake the symptoms for other illnesses. Therefore, it is very important for you to discuss the importance of safer sex with your partner, and having sex with only one faithful partner, who you know is faithful to you.

Counsellor

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