HIV and Pregnancy

HIV and Pregnancy

From the early days of the community learning about HIV, there have been a lot of questions and misconceptions about HIV. There have also been many advancements in the understanding of HIV and pregnancy. To understand how HIV affects pregnant women and their unborn child, it is important to understand what HIV is and how it can be contracted.

So, what is HIV? HIV stands for “Human Immunodeficiency Virus.” Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a virus that damages the immune system over time and is the virus that causes Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). Our immune systems work on our behalf to keep us healthy and fight off infections. Many people with HIV do not know that they have HIV because they feel and appear healthy. They can infect others without even knowing it. While there is no known cure for HIV or AIDS, there are many treatments and trials that provide a better quality of life and, in some cases, extend the lives of those diagnosed with either HIV or AIDS.

Let’s talk about how you DON’T get HIV. You don’t get HIV from touching, hugging, or being around a person with HIV. You can’t get HIV from bug bites or mosquitos. You can’t get HIV from kissing unless one of you has an open sore or cut in/outside the mouth. You can’t get HIV from giving blood. HIV is not transmitted through saliva.

Now, how CAN you contract HIV? HIV is transmitted through blood and bodily fluids including semen, vaginal secretions and breast milk. Basically, there has to be a way for the HIV virus to exit the infected person and an entry for the HIV virus to enter your body. The three most common ways to contract HIV is through unprotected sexual intercourse, sharing needles, and from mother to infant.

How do I know if I have HIV? The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommend that women who may become pregnant, or who are pregnant, have an HIV test as soon as possible. If you are already pregnant, you may request an HIV test at any time during your pregnancy, usually at the first prenatal appointment. The earlier, the better to reduce the chance of mother to baby transmission.

If you test HIV-negative and have unprotected sex or share needles, you should be tested again during the pregnancy. You should ask to be tested again in your third trimester as sometimes it takes time for the virus to be present in blood tests. It is a good idea to be tested because you could have been exposed to HIV through unprotected sex, without knowing it and even without your partner knowing it. If you share needles, you may also be at higher risk of contracting HIV so a repeat HIV test is recommended.

Will my baby have HIV if I am HIV positive? If you discover that you are HIV positive during pregnancy, meet with your healthcare provider to discuss treatment options. You should begin treatment immediately and MUST follow your recommended treatment protocol during pregnancy, labor, delivery, and breastfeeding (and beyond) to reduce the possibility of passing HIV on to the baby. It is possible to deliver a baby that is not HIV positive. The earlier you begin antiviral treatment, the better the chances that your baby will not be HIV positive. If you test HIV positive, your newborn MUST take an antiviral treatment protocol to reduce the baby’s chances of becoming infected with HIV.

Most women that are HIV positive have their babies delivered through caesarean section (C-section). However, some women that are HIV positive can have vaginal deliveries if they have a low viral load (low level or undetectable HIV in blood).

In resource-rich countries, such as the United States, women that are HIV positive are strongly advised to use baby formula to feed their infants. Baby formula is the safest feeding method for infants born to HIV positive mothers. However, if you do not have access to baby formula, sterile bottles and clean water daily, breastfeeding may be your only option. In this case, it is even more important for you to continue to take your treatment protocol daily and for your baby to take her treatment protocol as well. Even if the mother and baby are both on antiviral medications, there is still a chance of passing HIV on to the infant through breast milk.

Thanks to research, education, and improved treatments, many people with HIV live long, healthy lives. As with most illnesses, prevention, early detection and strict adherence to treatment protocols can lead to favorable outcomes. If you think you might have been exposed to HIV or would like to learn more about HIV and pregnancy, contact one of our Bay Area pregnancy clinics. Our caring and supportive nurses and patient advocates are here to answer your questions and address your concerns.



Pregnancy Symptoms



  1. http://sfaf.org/hiv-info/basics/how-is-hiv-transmitted.html?referrer=https://www.google.com/
  1. http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/group/gender/pregnantwomen/
  1. https://www.avert.org/learn-share/hiv-fact-sheets/pregnancy

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Support in the Field

Support in the Field

While tensions pump through our airwaves, isn’t it nice to know a place that runs on respect and treats people with dignity?  The atmosphere across America is tense right now over racial tensions, gun control, terrorism, and immigration. Pregnancy is in the spotlight too with the Zika virus health concerns. And, with the presidential election always comes renewed activity regarding abortion laws.  But in the midst of all this, Support Circle is a safe place for women and men facing an unplanned pregnancy, where they can focus on their thoughts, on their feelings, and on overcoming the challenges in their lives. Isn’t a safe and civil place refreshing when we’ve become so accustomed to the media’s endless diet of fear and acrimony?

We are profoundly changing lives together.  Deferentially providing women with a safe and civil place so they can address their underlying issues is quietly enabling life transformation!  You can see it in the faces of Serena, Brian and Emma in these beautiful photos.

FullSizeRender (16)  Serena Brian 2

She Matters.  And He Does Too.  These have been rallying cries at Support Circle.  Women and men who are conflicted about their unplanned pregnancies need real help and support.  They don’t need vitriol.  Women need immediate and accurate medical information.  They want to be able to sit down and sort through their thoughts and emotions.  And they need to lay out their concerns and develop a plan. In America, there are too many arm chair commentators, but how many players are actually on the field, providing direct services and helping women? How many of those people profit from her decision? At Support Circle, we bypass the political fighting, social media trolls, and naysayers by helping women and men face-to-face in our medical clinics.

One particular client, “Lily,” who was in an abusive relationship comes to mind. At Support Circle, Lily received immediate practical assistance in several areas such as food and transportation.  Her Support Circle counselor provided Lily the resources to develop a safety plan and self refer to a domestic violence shelter.   While internet trolls were busy flaming each other online, our counselor drove Lily and her daughter to the shelter, which was in another county for their safety. Lily had only a car seat, a stroller, and one bag. The counselor knew the shelter would be able to move Lily and her daughter to a safe house, which was priority number one.  And she knew that Lily would be connected to other essential resources through the shelter to deal with the emergency such as legal services.  The Support Circle counselor gave Lily a phone card so that she could add money to her cell phone and stay in communication with each other. After her immediate safety was secured, Lily resumed counseling sessions at Support Circle.  Through these actions, our counselor was embodying Support Circle’s three powerful and unique care promises:

  1. Time, space and support.
  2. Emotional support for the coming year no matter what you choose.
  3. A safe and civil place.


We honor women as decision-makers and do not pressure or manipulate clients.  We do not perform or refer for abortion.  Our way of operating honors the inherent dignity of all women, men and children.  We provide the face-to-face professional services and access to community resources that enable women and men to grapple with their life adversity and take steps of ownership to rise out of it.

Thank you for making a difference in real lives and real families!  Our clients are facing hurdles that need to be addressed in a caring, loving and supportive environment. They are not statistics or nameless, faceless numbers. They are real people with real problems and real concerns. In addition to dealing with unintended pregnancies, our clients may also need help addressing things like depression, anxiety, substance abuse, trauma, domestic violence and may need information on how pregnancy might affect existing health conditions. They come to us because they are pregnant or think they may be pregnant but, many times, they stay with us after their decision because they need help addressing the underlying issues they face.

Support Circle is unique in that we provide counseling for the male partner as well. According to a recent Public Opinion Strategies poll, the unique and central factor for a woman undecided about an unplanned pregnancy is the relationship with the father of the baby. By including her male partner in the counseling process, we are better able to help her address her underlying issues and help them to communicate better.  Over 70% of the men have been actively involved in the counseling process with our clients! What a breathtaking statistic that shatters stereotypes. Brian and Serena, featured in the photos of this letter, greatly benefited from counseling at Support Circle, and we are excited to share more of their story in our
upcoming communications.

We are aware of the tension-charged climate in America and the San Francisco Bay Area. Instead of fueling those tensions, we prefer our on the field approach. We want to continue to provide the practical, first line help women and men facing unintended pregnancies need; services such as no cost pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, pregnancy verifications, consultations with a registered nurse, and professional counseling.

Please fund these services which are quietly enabling life transformation. We need to raise a minimum of $240,000 by the end of September to provide these services. I’m delighted to tell you that our matching campaign is live and doubles all gifts until September 30! So far we have over $125,000 in matching funds committed by a group of supporters who want to encourage many new and existing supporters to joyfully and strongly fund Support Circle’s work. Will you help us with a gift today, which will be doubled through the match? Your gifts will be a profound blessing to our clients.

In gratitude,

Albert Lee

Executive Director


Double my gift Double My Pledge



How do I tell my parents I am pregnant?

How Do I Tell My Parents I am Pregnant?

Are you feeling nervous, unprepared, or afraid of telling your parents that you are pregnant? It’s easy to share news we know for sure our parents will be excited about. But other times, we are not sure how they will take what we have to share. Telling parents that you are in an unplanned pregnancy brings its own range of angst. Here are nine areas to think about when preparing to tell your parents that you are pregnant.

Get the Facts

Before you tell your parents and before you get too stressed out, confirm that you are pregnant. The nurses at Support Circle can perform a pregnancy test for you to confirm the results of a home pregnancy test that you may have purchased at a CVS pharmacy or a Walgreens pharmacy.

If it turns out that you are not pregnant, you won’t have to have this difficult conversation with your parents. If you plan to remain sexually active, selecting a reliable birth control plan can help you to avoid facing an unplanned pregnancy. If you are pregnant, a Support Circle nurse can perform a free ultrasound that will tell you how far along you are and can determine if the fetus is viable. If the fetus is not viable, it will drastically change your decision making process and what conversation, if any, you might decide to have with your parents.

Know Your Parents

Think back to how your parents react to sudden news. Are they calm and rational? Do they freak out and then calm down and think it through? How your parents react will be determined by their personalities and also by factors including these questions you should answer ahead of time: Are they aware that you are dating? Do they know you have been sexually active? How old are you? Do they perceive you to be mature for your age? Are you in school, working or both? What expectations do they have for you? What are their values regarding dating and sex? Have your parents experienced an unplanned pregnancy? Knowing what to expect from your parents can help you to prepare for their reaction. Ultimately, you will not know how your parents will react until you tell them. The next steps will help you to prepare to tell your parents you are pregnant.

Expert Support

What do you want to do about your pregnancy? In your perfect world, would you want to abort, place for adoption or parent? Regardless of your decision, you should talk to a professional pregnancy counselor because she can help you to determine your next steps. Pregnancy counselors have the knowledge of and access to community resources that you may need. They have lots of experience and can answer your questions. Caring counselors are able to give you the emotional support you need to make your best decision and throughout your pregnancy and beyond. If you decide you want to talk to your parents, a counselor can help you to role play the conversation and create a plan for how to discuss different topics with them. Many women have found this to be very helpful prior to approaching their parents.

A Support System

You will need support from those closest to you. It will help to have someone in your life that you can talk to. Someone who can help you to process your thoughts, values, emotions, and options. Often, a wise support person may be a close family friend, school counselor, favorite teacher, aunt or uncle.

Make a Plan

Having a plan for your next steps, based on your pregnancy decision, will show your parents that you have given this thought. If you are younger, it will help them to see that you have begun to take a mature approach to your pregnancy. You do not have to have every area outlined or thought out – they can help with that. A trusted advisor or pregnancy counselor can help you to lay out a plan based on your decision. It would also be a good idea to have a plan ready in case your parents request that you leave your home or emergency shelter if your home becomes a dangerous place for you.

Bring a Friend

Ideally, you and your boyfriend or girlfriend should tell your parents together. Sometimes, that is not possible. The next best option is to bring a friend. If you are concerned about your parents’ reaction or need help telling them, it might be wise to bring a friend. The person you selected as part of your support system might be a good choice. If you are concerned about your safety, having a friend present could help to diffuse the situation. Or, you could meet with your parents in a counselor’s office. A professional pregnancy counselor can address your parents’ questions and concerns as well as provide valuable resources for your family.

The Best Time

There really is no “best time” to tell your parents about your unplanned pregnancy. However, there are “better times.” Right after work, as soon as your parents walk in the door is not the best time. A better time would be after dinner or after a younger sibling has gone to bed. Consider your parents’ schedules and select a time when they will be most relaxed and receptive to a conversation.

What to Say

Your plan will help you to know what you need to share with your parents. For example, if you are younger, or still under their medical insurance, you may need their consent for medication or procedures, or help navigating medical bills. Do you need a ride to/from medical appointments or financial support? A clear and concise: “Mom, Dad, I’m pregnant,” will certainly get the conversation rolling. Chances are, your parents will do much of the talking and asking questions after an opening line like above.

Give it Time

This is life-changing news. It took you some time to come to terms with your pregnancy. Allow your parents time to process this information and come to terms with your pregnancy as well. Just as you went through a range of emotions, your parents may as well. They have to grieve the expectations and plans they had envisioned for you and accept the new reality. Be patient.

What you do with your pregnancy is your decision to make. Hopefully, your parents will support you in your decision. If not, we hope the tips shared above will help you to have a plan and support system in place.

The caring and supportive nurses and counselors at Support Circle are available to help you with pregnancy testing, counseling during your decision process and on-going counseling and support for the coming year after your decision. We have three locations in the Bay Area including Redwood City, San Francisco and Oakland that offer services free of charge. You do not have to walk through this journey alone. Connect with us today and let us help you find the information you are looking for.


Related Posts:


Pregnancy Symptoms

Pregnancy Options

Pregnancy Counseling


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Abortion – What if I decide to abort my pregnancy?

Abortion – What if I decide to abort my pregnancy?

What if I decide to abort my pregnancy?If you are reading this article, you may be pregnant and considering an abortion. Most women do not come to the decision to abort lightly. You may be concerned about your school or employment, housing, what your family will say, finances, etc. According to a recent Public Opinions survey, one of the biggest factors in women deciding on abortion is the relationship with the father. Women contemplating an abortion are often in most need of their friends, family, partner. Sadly, this may feel like a very lonely time for you. Whatever your reasons for considering abortion, at Support Circle, we are able to provide you with a caring, listening, non-judgmental counselor that can help you through this time and even in the months following your pregnancy decision.

Before going any further, first things first. Have you confirmed your pregnancy by visiting a medical office or clinic? Medical pregnancy tests can be more accurate than home pregnancy tests purchased at your local CVS or Walgreens pharmacy. After confirming your pregnancy, you may choose to have an ultrasound performed. Why? Ultrasounds are able to provide accurate dating of your pregnancy. This is important because your options are determined by how far along in the pregnancy you are. And, an ultrasound can go one step further to see if this is an ectopic pregnancy. Ectopic pregnancies are usually treatable with medication if discovered early but can be potentially life-threatening.

Medical Abortion

If the pregnancy is less than ten weeks from the date of your last menstrual cycle, you may be eligible for a medical abortion, also known as the Abortion Pill. Medical abortions are performed using two different drugs while under the supervision of a doctor, nurse practitioner, or midwife. The Abortion Pill is a drug called Mifepristone, Mifeprex, or RU486 and is available by prescription only. Mifepristone, when used in combination with Misoprostol, disrupts an existing pregnancy. Typically, during the initial medical visit, you will be asked to complete blood tests, an ultrasound and counseling prior to beginning the drug regimen.

The two-part drug regimen can only be obtained with a prescription. The first drug makes the uterus a difficult place for the fetus to remain implanted. The second drug helps to remove the fetus from the uterus. In technical terms, Mifepristone is an anti-progesterone that causes the lining of the uterine walls to shed and it softens and dilates (expands) the cervix, thus facilitating an abortion. Misoprostol, the second drug, is a prostaglandin that induces uterine contractions and softens and dilates the cervix. It is taken approximately 48 hours after taking Mifepristone. When these two drugs are taken in combination with each other, a medical abortion is complete approximately 97% of the time. A follow up visit 7-14 days later is very important to ensure there is no tissue left behind and that the abortion occurred successfully.

Some women experience mild cramping and/or nausea in addition to vaginal bleeding or spotting. The most common side effects of the Mifepristone and Misoprostol regimen include: pelvic cramping, vaginal bleeding, and spotting (including the expelling of tissue and blood clots) for an average of 9-16 days. It is also common to experience nausea, vomiting, dizziness, headaches, fever, chills, weakness and diarrhea. Contact your medical practitioner if you are concerned about the side affects you are experiencing.

Surgical Abortion

Depending upon how far your pregnancy has progressed, there may be two kinds of surgical abortion options available to you. Aspiration (also known as vacuum aspiration or suction curettage) can be performed up to 12-14 weeks after the start of the last menstrual cycle. It only requires one visit to a medical clinic. Typically, during that visit, you will be asked to complete blood tests, an ultrasound and counseling prior to the procedure.  A local anesthesia will be applied to the cervix to numb pain. You might feel some minor pressure but should not feel pain. The cervix is dilated (expanded) and the aspiration device empties the contents of the uterus. While the aspiration procedure only takes approximately 5-15 minutes, you will need to recover for about 30 minutes afterward.

For pregnancies from 13-24 weeks after the start of your last menstrual cycle, a Dilation and Evacuation (D&E) is the surgical abortion procedure available. A D&E is similar to the aspiration abortion. However, the cervix is dilated more and this procedure requires two or three visits. For the first appointment, blood tests, an ultrasound and counseling session are standard. Also on the first visit, either medication or fiber rods are used to begin to dilate the cervix. On the next visit, if your cervix is sufficiently dilated, the same aspiration device is used to empty the uterus. Additional instruments may be used to ensure the contents of the uterus are fully cleared. A local anesthetic to numb the pain and make you semi-conscious is often used. Sometimes, a general anesthetic may be used to put you to sleep, depending upon the medical facility. The D&E procedure is usually 10-45 minutes with at least one hour of recovery time afterwards.

Deciding to abort a pregnancy is seldom a decision made lightly. No one should pressure you into making a decision about your pregnancy. This includes the father, family, friends, counselors, etc. And sometimes, the greatest pressure comes from ourselves. If you would like to talk to someone about your decision, thoughts, emotions, or ask medical questions at any time, the caring counselors at Support Circle are available to listen and to provide non-judgmental emotional support before and after the pregnancy decision for the coming year. Our nurses can confirm your pregnancy test results, provide you with pregnancy verification and assist with dating the pregnancy during an ultrasound.

Call or visit one of our three medical clinics in San Francisco, Oakland and Redwood City. All appointments are confidential and free of charge.

Support Circle is dedicated to providing women with a safe place as they make a decision about their pregnancy and not to profit from any medical procedures resulting from that decision. For this reason, Support Circle provides information about abortion procedures to our clients, but does not perform or refer for abortion. We do not operate as an adoption agency.  We do not perform or refer for labor and delivery.

Why is my period late?

Pregnancy Symptoms

Pregnancy Options

Is the Abortion Pill and the Morning After Pill the same?




  1. http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/PostmarketDrugSafetyInformationforPatientsandProviders/ucm111323.htm
  2. http://www.fda.gov/downloads/Drugs/DrugSafety/ucm088643.pdf
  3. http://www.rhtp.org/Abortion/mifepristone/default.asp
  4. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/429755_3


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