Infant feeding for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV
Mother-to-child transmission of HIV is the primary way that infants become infected with HIV. Transmission can occur during pregnancy, birth, or through breastfeeding. In the past, the dilemma has been how to balance the risk of infants acquiring HIV through breastfeeding, with the risk of death from malnutrition, diarrhoea and pneumonia if infants are not exclusively breastfed.
In 2009–2010, new evidence showed that giving antiretroviral medicines to the mother or the infant can dramatically reduce the risk of HIV transmission through breastfeeding. It is now possible for infants to breastfeed with little risk of acquiring HIV.
WHO recommends that national health authorities make the decision to endorse either breastfeeding with antiretrovirals, or to avoid all breastfeeding. This decision should be made after a review of national HIV rates along with the main causes of childhood death other than HIV.
Guidelines on HIV and infant feeding 2010: principles and recommendations for infant feeding in the context of HIV and a summary of evidence [pdf 1.58MB]