Health experts recommend milk from a mother's breast for healthy development and growth of her baby. Breast milk is said to help the child acquire antibodies needed to fight diseases. But what if the mother is infected with HIV? This is a dilemma many HIV-postive mothers face across the world. She has two choice - to breastfeed or to bottle-feed.
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According to scientist, a woman who is HIV-positive has a 1-in-7 chance of infecting her child through breast milk. A mother's milk is known as "the ultimate health food" for neonates. Bottled milk in recent times has been one of the major cause of infant diarrhea and has claimed but a few lives of babies infected.
What will a loving mother decide if she has HIV?
What ever decision she would take comes with a very big price. In order to avoid the risk of transmitting HIV to her offspring, a mother may choose bottle feeding. This will surely prevent the baby from get infected with HIV but it comes with a social consequence.
In many parts of the world especially Africa, it expected that a mother breastfeed her baby. When a woman is always seen using bottle to feed her newborn child, what will people say? There is a lot of stigmatization on people living with HIV. No mother want to suffer such. A lot of questions will be asked. And answers will be required. In time people will begin to suspect she is HIV-positive. Soon she will be ostracized.
To avoid this kind of treatment many HIV-positive mothers may choose to breastfeed her baby. Sadly this has truly been the case. Newborn are infected with HIV.
Even if a mother choose to remain out of public radar just to bottle-feed her baby, problem may still arise. For instance, in environment where clean water is unavailable, preparing the formula with with unclean water put the baby at risk of water-borne diseases.
If clean water is readily available, another problem which can arise is finance. Infant formula are quite expensive. A mother may not be able to afford the cost so she is left with no choice but to take the risk of breastfeeding.
Of recent health authorities have advocated HIV-positive mothers to breastfeed their babies but must be on antiretroviral (ARV) drugs.
World Health Organization (WHO) recommends "that HIV-positive mothers or their infants take antiretroviral drugs throughout the period of breastfeeding and until the infant is 12 months old. This means that the child can benefit from breastfeeding with very little risk of becoming infected with HIV." But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States is against woman infected with HIV breastfeeding her baby.
Whatever the case may be, it is advisable that HIV-positive mothers should consult with a professional healthcare provider before taking any decision whether to breastfeed her baby or not.