In Botswana, Step to Cut AIDS Proves a Formula for Disaster
July 27, 2007
CDC investigators probing a diarrhea outbreak that killed at least 532 children during Botswana's rainy season in early 2006 came to a startling conclusion: The decade-long, global push to have HIV-positive mothers feed formula, instead of breast milk, to their babies appeared to have cost at least as many lives as it saved. The nutrition and antibodies in breast milk are so crucial to developing children that the benefits outweigh the risk, about 1 percent per month, of transmitting HIV through breastfeeding.
The scientists' report noted several factors that contributed to the Botswana outbreak:
In October 2006, UNICEF issued new guidelines that stressed the value of breastfeeding and said formula-feeding could be dangerous in all but the most developed settings. Botswanan health officials, however, were not convinced. Health Minister Sheila D. Tlou said the 2006 outbreak was a one-time occurrence that did not call for a new policy. Officials are working to make formula-feeding safer by encouraging mothers to boil water and use cups, which are easier to clean than bottles. Tlou said the ministry will monitor emerging studies to decide if a change in policy is justified.
07.23.2007; Craig Timberg
Washington Post Examines Effect of Botswana Infant Formula Program Implemented to Reduce Risk of Mother-to-Child HIV Transmission
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.