7.1.3 ARV drugs and duration of breastfeeding

Consolidated ARV guidelines, June 2013

Rationale for not changing the 2010 WHO recommendations on HIV and infant feeding

Overall, there is no new evidence to support changing the 2010 recommendation.

The main concern about promoting unrestricted breastfeeding among mothers with HIV is that mothers may not adhere to ART throughout breastfeeding, placing their infants at risk of HIV transmission. Although this is important at any time when the infant is breastfeeding, it is of particular concern after the infant reaches 12 months of age. Before 12 months of age, breastfeeding provides major protection to the infant against death from diarrhoea, pneumonia and malnutrition. Although breastfeeding continues to provide a range of benefits to the child after 12 months of age, reductions in mortality from these conditions become less significant.

WHO recommendations acknowledge that some mothers may not be able to provide a safe and adequate diet to children beyond 12 months of age without breastfeeding and, in these situations, suggest that breastfeeding should continue. However, evidence to support this as a general approach, including the additional risk of HIV transmission and ARV toxicity surveillance data to exclude possible ARV-related adverse health outcomes for the infant, is not currently available.