Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT)


Mother to child transmission happens when HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is passed from a mother to her unborn baby during pregnancy, during birth or during breastfeeding.

Mother and Child



What is the PMTCT Programme?

When a mother goes to the clinic, Midwife Obstetric Unit or hospital for her first antenatal visit, she is offered routine HIV counselling and voluntary testing. The results are confidential, which means that only the counsellor and healthcare workers looking after the mother will discuss the results.

If the mother takes the test and is found to be HIV positive, she will have the option to join the PMTCT programme free of charge. If the mother tests HIV positive, a CD4 count and WHO staging will be done, so that she can be started on Antiretroviral Treatment (ARV).

All HIV positive pregnant or breastfeeding women qualify for ARV. ARV will reduce the risk of HIV transmission to the baby and protect the mother's health during and after pregnancy. ARV should be initiated as soon as possible after diagnosis (within 7 days). When in labour, women should bring their ARVs to the labour ward and continue with their medication.

On discharge, the baby will also receive Nevirapine syrup within six to 72 hours after birth. The babies will also receive Nevirapine syrup for a further 4 or 12 weeks, depending on how long the mother has taken ARVs.

Infant Feeding

Counselling and advice on infant feeding for HIV-positive mothers is available. Breastfeeding is encouraged, however mothers are given a choice to either exclusively breastfeed for six months or exclusively formula feed.

Exclusive breastfeeding means that the baby must only be given breast milk, no tea, no water, no juice or solids. This reduces the chance of the virus in the breast milk being passed on to the baby. Those mothers choosing to formula feed will be provided with formula milk until the baby is six months old. They will get two tins of formula milk on discharge after delivery and thereafter ten tins per month at the baby follow-up facility.

The Baby's Health and Development

The mother should arrive with the baby within one to two weeks after birth at the nearest baby follow-up clinic, thereafter every two weeks for the following: monitoring of babies weight, immunisation, co-trimoxazole (to prevent pneumonia), checks on feeding practices and if the mother choose formula feeding, to provide the formula milk to the mother.

The baby will receive an HIV test at six weeks, which coincides with the immunisation visit and Co-trimoxazole administration. If negative, the baby does not need Co-trimoxazole any longer. If the baby tests positive then they must continue with Co-trimoxazole, these babies must be referred for clinical assessment and started on Antiretrovital Treatment (ART).

The Mother's Health and Development

HIV can live for a long time in the body whilst the mother feels healthy and well. For this reason mothers are encouraged to go to the clinic regularly to get medicine for opportunistic infections to keep healthy for longer. She is encouraged to use condoms every time she has sex so that she can protect herself and her partner from contracting the virus, or from getting more of the virus if both partners are HIV positive.

The mother will also be given counselling about contraception options for after the birth. The health worker will encourage the mother to tell the father of the baby that she is HIV positive so that he can also be tested. This can happen with the aid of the counsellor or health worker. It is important for the mother to join a group that will support her and give her information on eating nutritiously and how to look after herself and the baby. Formal support groups are available and can be contacted through the local clinic.

Remember that the presence of maternal Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) increases the risk of HIV transmission.


For further information and assistance, you can contact your nearest clinic in the facility below. First-time visitors to the clinic/secondary or tertiary hospital will be asked to fill out a form and a folder will be opened for the patient. Bring your ID book. A referral letter from the clinic is required when visiting a hospital.

The following organisations may also be able to assist you:

Provided At: These facility categories:
Provided by:
Government Body: (Western Cape Government)
The content on this page was last updated on 26 March 2015