A recent study addressed concerns on the effect that an expectant mother’s HIV treatment may have on her unborn baby. In particular, the study focused on language development. What was the result? By age two, children who had been born to mothers treated for HIV during pregnancy showed no additional delay in learning to speak.

This was an important study to relieve the concerns of many in the medical field. It had been believed that treating pregnant women for HIV would result in the baby’s lessened brain development.

All of the children who were part of the study were exposed to HIV during the pregnancy. While some mothers received a cocktail of drugs to treat the condition; others did not. The results for language development in the resulting children were just about equal. On both sides, about 1 in 4 experienced development difficulties. This shows that it was not the medication’s fault that children born to HIV-infected were having this language problem.

While previous studies suggested that the antiretroviral drugs may cause these delays, this study has clearly debunked that previous concern. One drug in particular is still being monitored, however. While children born of mothers on this particular drug were on equal footing with their peers by age two, they were behind at age one and had to catch up. More research is necessary to discover the reason for this. The drug’s name is Atazanavir.

Almost 800 children were a part of this comprehensive study, so these findings clearly overturn those of previous smaller studies.  On the other hand, now research must continue to try and explain why about 25% of children exposed to HIV in the womb end up experiencing some kind of early on language problem.