HIV, AIDS and infant feeding.

Position:Worldwide news

On World AIDS Day, December 1, 2006, the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) issued a statement warning that infant feeding policies aimed to avert transmission of HIV from mother to child can put babies at risk of death from the dangers of formula feeding:

'Worldwide, HIV-infection among young women is outstripping infection in men and the health of tomorrow's mothers is crucial to child survival. But ... findings confirm that up to 96-99% of babies are not infected after birth when mothers breastfeed exclusively.

'Research from Nigeria, Uganda, South Africa and Botswana documents high rates of young child morbidity and elevated mortality due to diarrhoea, acute respiratory infection and sepsis when formula-feeding replaces breastfeeding.

'... In an effort to prevent paediatric HIV infection, with a water supply generally regarded as safe, Botswana recommended replacement feeding by all HIV-positive women, accompanied by provision of a year's supply of free formula. Indeed, formula has been promoted so strongly that one in five uninfected or untested mothers have also stopped breastfeeding before their babies reach six months of age.

'But late last year Botswana suffered a catastrophic outbreak of gastrointestinal illness. Hospitals throughout the country were overwhelmed by 35,000 cases and 532 deaths. The most affected group was infants aged 0-12 months who were not breastfed. Assistance was requested from the US Centers for Disease Control, WHO and UNICEF. A closer evaluation found that a variety of pathogens was responsible, including cryptosporidium...

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