This Mother’s Day, moms with HIV/AIDS have an exciting advancement to celebrate: their ability to breastfeed their babies without fear.
While moms living with HIV/AIDS can transfer the infection to their children through breastfeeding, advancements in antiretroviral drugs (ARV) and a better understanding of infection transmission have now enabled these moms to breastfeed their children safely, according to the World Health Organization.
Experts now say that babies born to mothers with HIV/AIDS have a better chance at thriving if they breastfeed from their mothers.
"When looking at the overall health of children it is critical to encourage all mothers to breastfeed," Tin Tin Sint, UNICEF HIV and AIDS Nutrition Specialist, said in a statement. "The message about the benefits of breastfeeding are the same regardless of whether a women is living with HIV or not."
Breastfeeding is critical for these children to avoid malnutrition, which has been strongly linked to HIV infection, according to UNICEF.
In Zimbabwe, for example, as many as 70 percent of children with acute malnutrition are also infected with HIV. A study in Malawi found that 22 percent of severe acute malnutrition cases were HIV-positive, UNICEF reported.
Nonhlanhla Dubanze, 29, of South Africa, is one such mom who is relieved to know that she can breastfeed her baby without concern.
At the very same time Dubanze learned she was pregnant, she also got the devastating news that she was HIV positive.
She feared she would lose her baby, but her healthcare professionals put her on a regimen and urged her to breastfeed when her son, Answer, was born.
He is now 6 months old and has not been infected.
"When I breastfeed him, I hold him. He talks to me," Dubanze, who now encourages other moms with HIV/AIDS to breastfeed, told UNICEF of the joy she experiences. "He touches my face. He kisses my face."