Infants can contract infections of human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, through contact with bodily fluids in the mother's uterus or the birth canal during labor, KidsHealth states. After giving birth, mothers can spread the infection while breastfeeding. Symptoms of an infection can appear as soon as two months after birth.
In the United States, instances of HIV passed from mothers to newborns have decreased by about 90 percent due to preventive drugs and HIV testing, according to WebMD. If doctors aren't aware of the mother's infection, the baby may go untreated and develop growth complications, such as lack of weight gain. In later years, the child may fail to reach normal developmental milestones and perform poorly in academic settings. Affected children are often highly susceptible to childhood illnesses, such as colds and ear infections, and may develop nervous system problems, including seizures and impaired motor function.
As the infection progresses, children are more likely to struggle with opportunistic infections, which are conditions that thrive in a weakened immune system, KidsHealth notes. For example, children may develop a heightened form of chicken pox, bacterial infections, such as tuberculosis and meningitis, and viral infections, such as lymphoid interstitial pneumonia. Physicians use medication to try to prevent the spread of HIV between mother and child and slow the effects of the infection in affected children.