Breastfeeding benefits may outweigh HIV risk

The benefits of breastfeeding outweigh the risks of virus transmission from HIV-positive mothers to their children, according to studies conducted in four African nations.

The studies were presented at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Los Angeles, United States, this week (25–28 February).

A study in Zambia showed that exclusive breastfeeding ― where a child is fed only breast milk ― beyond a set time period of four months did not increase the risk of HIV transmission. The study was a collaboration between US universities and University Teaching Hospital in Lusaka, Zambia.

Other studies suggested that continued exclusive breastfeeding could actually improve the survival rate of HIV-positive children.

Three studies in Malawi, Kenya and Uganda, sponsored by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found that stopping exclusive breastfeeding a few months after birth increased the risk of severe diarrhoea in the infant.