Researchers Recommend "Safer Breastfeeding" to Minimize Vertical HIV Transmission
January 9, 2004
Several researchers have suggested that HIV-positive mothers in Africa should practice "safer breastfeeding" to minimize the risk of transmitting HIV while passing on the benefits of breastfeeding to their infants, the Toronto Globe and Mail reports. Breastfeeding passes antibodies on to infants, contributes to cognitive development and is safer than using formula, which is expensive and must be mixed with water, which could be contaminated in some parts of Africa. However, 50% of HIV-positive children in sub-Saharan Africa were infected through the breastmilk of their HIV-positive mothers, according to the Globe and Mail. After assessing the relative risks of HIV transmission through breastfeeding and contracting a disease through contaminated water, researchers have suggested that women practice "exclusive breastfeeding and abrupt weaning," in which an infant is given nothing but breastmilk for the first six months and then is abruptly cut off, the Globe and Mail reports. Researchers are unsure why this reduces the risk of HIV transmission but speculate that water, small amounts of porridge and cooking oil that are often given to infants irritate the lining of the intestines, increasing the chances that an infant's body will absorb HIV from breastmilk.
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This article was provided by Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. It is a part of the publication Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report. Visit the Kaiser Family Foundation's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.