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HIV-Positive Mothers in Uganda Return to Breastfeeding

Summary of published research1

An increasing number of mothers with HIV in Uganda are breastfeeding their babies after UNICEF stopped donating free infant formula, according to a recent news piece published in the Lancet.

Under the prevention of mother-tochild HIV transmission (PMTCT) project, between 2000 and 2002, UNICEF donated infant formula for HIV-positive mothers who, on counselling, chose to use formula rather than breastfeed their newborn infants. However, according to UNICEF in Uganda, they found that those who were in need did not have access to formula, and since it was expensive, it was not sustainable. Nationally, only 32% of the HIV-positive mothers opted for formula feeding. The remainder chose to breastfeed either because of stigma, or their living conditions made formula feeding risky. Even among those who chose formula, many were breastfeeding at night for convenience.

Ministry of Health (MOH) figures were not available as to how many mothers had reverted to breastfeeding. At one of the urban sites, Nsambya, while 50% of the women formula fed their children last year, this has now dropped to less than 20%.

Uganda's Child Health Commissioner has expressed concerns that the reduced availability of infant formula will slow efforts to reduce mother-to-child HIV transmission. However, the MOH is finding it difficult to respond to requests to procure infant formula, given the limited resources available and many other basic antenatal needs that remain unmet within the health system.

Show footnotes

1News, The Lancet, vol 36, no.9383, 16 Augest 2003.

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Reference this page

HIV-Positive Mothers in Uganda Return to Breastfeeding. Field Exchange 20, November 2003. p14. www.ennonline.net/fex/20/hiv