BREAKTHROUGH: Safe Breastfeeding Possible for Mothers with HIV! 

United States: A leading US pediatricians’ group said that people with HIV can breastfeed their babies if they are regularly taking medicines to prevent the AIDS virus from spreading. 

What more have the experts to say? 

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) who has overturned the older recommendations, that were in place since the beginning of the HIV epidemic in the 1980s. 

Dr. Lisa Abuogi, who is a pediatric HIV expert working at the University of Colorado and also a lead author of the report, explained that the regular intake of prescribed medication successfully reduces the risk of spreading HIV while breastfeeding a child to less than one percent. 

Abuogi added, “The medications are so good now, and the benefits for mom and baby are so important that we are at a point where it is important to engage in shared decision-making,” as AP News reported. 

Safe Breastfeeding Possible for Mothers with HIV. Credit | Reuters
Safe Breastfeeding Possible for Mothers with HIV. Credit | Reuters

Abuogi included treatment through a therapy called ‘antiretroviral therapy’ that doesn’t remove the danger of the possible spread of HIV through milk from the mother’s breasts. Therefore, not breastfeeding if the person is infected with the virus is the only remaining option. 

Importance of breastfeeding to babies 

Further, at present, experts recommend that parents breastfeed only the babies for the initial six months since birth. The reason cited is that switching to formula milk might cause a disruption in several ways inside the gut of an infant, thereby raising the risk of HIV infection. 

In the US, every year, around 5,000 people with HIV give birth, and almost every one of them takes drugs to prevent the virus from spreading, decreasing its presence to a very low level. Moreover, as per experts, if the drug intake is stopped, then the virus levels are likely to increase, as AP News reported. 

According to Dr. Lynne Mofenson, an adviser to the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, about a decade ago, when the medications were not widely known and available, in more than 30 percent of breastfeeding cases, HIV infection gets transmitted from moms to babies. 

More about the AAP policy 

The AAP policy takes place weeks after the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about-face on the issue of people with HIV breastfeeding. The guidance noted individuals who generate consistent viral suppression should be advised on their choices. 

It also highlights that healthcare professionals should not try to contact the authorities of child protective services if the parent wants to breastfeed if he/she has HIV. 

The aim cited was to listen to patients “and not blame or shame them,” said Dr. Lynn Yee, a Northwestern University professor of obstetrics and gynecology who helped draft the NIH guidance.