Should HIV-positive mothers breastfeed?
HIV Transmission and Breastfeeding
In an ideal world, the answer is no, as breast milk transmission of HIV contributes substantially to infant infection. However, in the same developing countries where the majority of HIV mother-to-child transmission takes place, breast milk is often considered the only safe and nutritious food for infants. This makes for difficult recommendations, and additional research is needed.
A new study conducted by Renaud Becquet and colleagues in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, and reported in PLoS Medicine shows that if HIV-positive mothers are well supported, either of the two feeding options currently recommended (formula-only feed, or short-term breastfeeding) are likely to be equivalent in terms of the baby's chances for survival and health.
In an accompanying Perspective, Grace John-Stewart discusses the implications of these results for HIV-positive mothers in developing countries and their health care providers.