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Breastfeeding and the Risk of Transmission

August 8, 2000

A note from TheBody.com: Since this article was written, the HIV pandemic has changed, as has our understanding of HIV/AIDS and its treatment. As a result, parts of this article may be outdated. Please keep this in mind, and be sure to visit other parts of our site for more recent information!

Researchers presented follow-up data from a study that looked at the impact of Retrovir® and Epivir® on mother-to-child transmission. The study compared groups of women who received no therapy, who received therapy at different points during pregnancy and delivery, or who received continuous therapy throughout pregnancy. Six weeks after birth only 8.6% of the children whose mother had received therapy throughout pregnancy became infected, while 19.1% of children whose mothers had received no drugs became infected.

The researcher followed the women and their children out through 24 months and found that 69% of the women chose to breastfeed their children. Of the women who received anti-HIV medication during their pregnancy, and then chose to breastfeed, 21.3% of their children were HIV-positive by month 24, up from only 8.6% after 6 weeks. The 21.3% infection rate among these children is particularly startling when compared to a 26.8% infection rate among those who received no anti-HIV medication at all during pregnancy.

This study has implications not only in the developing world where formula is expensive and clean water scarce, but also in developed countries where many women may choose to breastfeed their infants. Because HIV is transmitted through breastfeeding, the early benefit of anti-HIV medication is completely lost when children are breastfed.


A note from TheBody.com: Since this article was written, the HIV pandemic has changed, as has our understanding of HIV/AIDS and its treatment. As a result, parts of this article may be outdated. Please keep this in mind, and be sure to visit other parts of our site for more recent information!



  
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This article was provided by Seattle Treatment Education Project. It is a part of the publication STEP Ezine.
 
See Also
What Did You Expect While You Were Expecting?
HIV/AIDS Resource Center for Women
More Research on Pregnancy and HIV/AIDS

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