HIV infection constitutes a major health problem in sub-Saharan Africa. Worldwide it is estimated that 2.5 million children live with HIV, of whom 90% reside in sub-Saharan Africa. Children become mainly infected through a mother-to-child transmission, and when infants are breastfed the infection risk is high. Breastfeeding is a common practice in sub-Saharan Africa, being determined by economic, infrastructural, cultural and social factors. Most often "breastfeeding" implies mixed feeding, consisting of breast milk combined with other food or fluids. Exclusive breastfeeding by HIV-positive mothers during the first six months after birth, may constitute an important strategy to reduce mother-to-child transmission. It remains recommended unless replacement feeding is acceptable, feasible, affordable, sustainable and safe. The results of studies in sub-Saharan Africa reveal that breastfeeding reduces infant morbidity and mortality when compared to exclusive replacement feeding. Compared with mixed feeding, exclusive breastfeeding grants a lower risk of HIV transmission. Breastfeeding is also not associated with higher maternal morbidity or mortality, nor with an increase of HIV disease progression. Implementation of these guidelines will only be possible once the necessary means for early diagnosis of HIV in pregnant women as well as their, intensive counselling, follow-up and support become available. This may allow women in sub-Saharan Africa to make an informed, although often limited, choice on feeding practices.
|Translated title of the contribution||Infant feeding options for HIV-positive women in sub-Saharan Africa: Guidelines and practice|
|Number of pages||5|
|Journal||Tijdschrift voor Geneeskunde|
|Publication status||Published - 15 Oct 2008|