Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Should nevirapine be used to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV among women of unknown serostatus?

Tin Tin Sint, François Dabis, Claude Kamenga, Nathan Shaffer, & Isabelle F. de Zoysa


At present, HIV testing and counselling during pregnancy represent the key entry point for women to learn their serostatus and for them to access, if they are HIV-positive, specific interventions to reduce mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) of HIV. However, the provision and uptake of testing and counselling services are inadequate, and many pregnant women in countries most affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic remain unaware of their HIV status. The offer of single-dose nevirapine prophylaxis to women whose HIV status is unknown at the time of delivery has been proposed to circumvent these problems in high-prevalence settings. The potential advantages and disadvantages of three different programme approaches are considered: targeted programmes in which antiretroviral drugs are offered only to women who are known to be HIV-positive; combined programmes in which nevirapine prophylaxis is offered to women whose serostatus remains unknown at the time of delivery despite targeted programme inputs; and universal nevirapine prophylaxis programmes in which HIV testing and counselling are not available and all pregnant women, regardless of their serostatus, are offered nevirapine prophylaxis.