MINISTRY of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) National Prevention of mother-to-child-transmission (PMTC) and Paediatric HIV care and treatment coordinator, Dr Angela Mushavi says there is no harm in HIV positive mother breastfeeding their negative babies.
This is despite growing fears amongst HIV positive mothers of infecting their babies through breast milk a situation which has led to a spike in uptake of formula milk across the globe.
Dr Mushavi said mothers should breastfeed exclusively for the first six months regardless of their HIV status provided they are active on Antiretroviral therapy (ARV)s.
“A baby born of an HIV positive mother is at risk of getting infected when in the womb, at birth and during breastfeeding.
“We put the mother on ARVs to cut off infection risk. Pregnant mothers are advised to book for ante-natal clinic early so that they are tested for HIV and other infections. It is possible to give birth to an HIV negative baby,” said Dr Mushavi.
𝐌𝐢𝐧𝐢𝐬𝐭𝐫𝐲 𝐨𝐟 𝐇𝐞𝐚𝐥𝐭𝐡 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐂𝐡𝐢𝐥𝐝 𝐂𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐞𝐧𝐜𝐨𝐮𝐫𝐚𝐠𝐞𝐬 𝐚𝐛𝐬𝐨𝐥𝐮𝐭𝐞 𝐛𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐬𝐭 𝐟𝐞𝐞𝐝𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐛𝐚𝐛𝐢𝐞𝐬 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐟𝐢𝐫𝐬𝐭 𝐬𝐢𝐱 𝐦𝐨𝐧𝐭𝐡𝐬 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡 𝐧𝐨 𝐬𝐮𝐩𝐩𝐥𝐞𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐬 𝐢𝐧 𝐛𝐞𝐭𝐰𝐞𝐞𝐧.
Breastfeeding mothers who are HIV positive find it hard to breast feed as they are afraid of infecting the baby through breast milk. However, Dr Mushavi said it was safe to breast feed as breast milk is a complete food for the baby in the first six months.
While less than five percent of babies in Zimbabwe are born HIV positive, the country strives to have no baby born infected.