Study finds HIV breastfeeding risk highest in early months after birth

An infant's risk of becoming infected with the AIDS virus through breastfeeding is highest during the first few months of life, according to a new study conducted among HIV-infected mothers and their babies in the African nation of Malawi. A mother's inexperience with breastfeeding may increase HIV transmission risk.

A report of the study by researchers from the National Institutes of Health, the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health in Baltimore, MD, and the Malawi College of Medicine in Blantyre, Malawi, appears in the August 25 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"This is a very important area of research," comments Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), which co-funded the study with the National Cancer Institute (NCI). "Little is known about the timing of HIV infection through breastfeeding or the associated risk factors. This finding and other ongoing studies will help HIV-infected women make informed decisions about infant feeding."

Breastfeeding is the recommended method of infant feeding in Malawi and other developing countries, where alternatives to breast milk are often scarce, unsafe or culturally unacceptable. In the United States, where safe alternatives to breast milk are plentiful, HIV-infected women are advised against breastfeeding their infants.

Lead author Paolo Miotti, M.D., of NIAID's Division of AIDS, senior author Robert J. Biggar, M.D., of NCI's Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, and their colleagues investigated the timing of, and risk factors for, HIV infection among breastfed infants of HIV-infected mothers. The researchers tested infants for HIV infection during visits to the postnatal care clinic of a large urban hospital in Malawi. Only babies who tested negative for HIV at their first visit, six weeks after birth, were included in the study. The researchers' objective was to examine breastfeeding-rela

Contact: John Bowersox
NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

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