Tuesday, December 1, 2009

New recommendations for breastfeeding & HIV

Just in time for World AIDS Day, the World Health Organization (WHO) has set new guidelines on breastfeeding & HIV. After lots of recent clinical studies showed the efficacy of antiretroviral drugs in preventing HIV/AIDS transmission from mother to baby through breast milk, WHO now recommends women begin taking AZT at 14 weeks and continue until they stop breastfeeding. In other words, WHO is stating that if antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) are available, it is recommended that a woman breastfeed.

For those of us in North America and Europe this may not seem like such a huge deal. Formula feeding in places where a mother has access to clean water is relatively safe. However, in places like Africa, it is actually more dangerous for a baby to be fed artificial baby milk than to be breastfed by an HIV positive mother. In countries where the water supply is unsafe, UNICEF estimates that babies who are bottle fed are 25 times more likely to die, particularly from gastrointestinal illness.

"In the new recommendations, we are sending a clear message that breastfeeding is a good option for every baby, even those with HIV-positive mothers when they have access to ARVs," said Daisy Mafubelu, WHO's Assistant Director General for Family and Community Health.

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