BREASTFEEDING valuable for babies from the time of birth to when they grow, it strengthens infants’ immune systems.
Over the years due to fear of HIV/AIDS mother to child transmission, breast feeding was discouraged.
It was at the end of 2009 that the World Health Organisation provided the good news that HIV-positive mothers can breastfeed their babies without worries if whether the mother or child is taking ARVs.
Judith Umuhoza felt helpless breastfeeding her babies because she was HIV Positive. Umuhoza is a single mother and has had two children while HIV/AIDS positive.
Due to poverty, she could not afford to introduce any of her babies to cow milk or any other nutritious feeding. She helplessly continued to breastfeed them despite the danger.
Beryl Wheeler, a lactation (breast feeding) consultant believes that at least a baby should be breastfed for six months.
“For these months a baby should at least feed on breast milk as a source of all of the nutrients needed during that period of an infant’s life. Breast milk contains agents that help to protect against common childhood illnesses such as diarrhea and respiratory infections that children are vulnerable to,” Wheeler said.
Prior to the WHO findings, breastfeeding was not approved as a safe way to feed babies born to HIV infected mothers.
WHO also recommended earlier initiation of antiretroviral therapy (ART) for adults and adolescents, the delivery of more patient-friendly antiretroviral drugs (ARVs), and encouraged the prolonged use of ARVs to reduce the risk of mother-to-child transmission.
“This is the first time WHO proposed that HIV-positive mothers or their infants take ARVs while breastfeeding to prevent HIV transmission,” WHO reveals in its 2009, end of year recommendations.
When Umuhoza’s first daughter turned five last year, she was taken for HIV/AIDS testing and was found to be HIV/AIDS free. It was a surprise to the mother who had a second child whom she breastfed due to financial constraints.
Umuhoza said, at one time well wishers decided to make monthly payments for her baby’s milk, so that they could save the baby from contracting the virus.
However, after testing her children, Umuhoza was surprised at the results.
It is only through the new findings that HIV/AIDS mothers have hope for their baby’s lives. These findings do not only provide nutritious milk for their babies but also relieves poor HIV/AIDS positive mothers who continue to breastfeed due to financial limitations.
In order to increase the chances of survival for the baby, WHO advises that breastfeeding continues until a child is 12 months old as long an HIV-positive mother or her baby is taking ARVs during that period.
There is also a need to increase availability of treatment in countries with limited financial resources. And, with the new recommendations mothers have been encouraged to go for early HIV/AIDS testing so as to start medication.
Today, babies no longer have to be disconnected and deprived of their mother’s love that is normally developed during breastfeeding.