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Breastfeeding is normally the best way to feed an infant. A woman infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), however, can transmit the virus to her child during pregnancy, labour or delivery, or through breastfeeding. The Global Strategy on Infant and Young Child Feeding (link) lays down that the optimal feeding pattern for survival in the general population is exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life, with adequate and safe complementary feeding from age six months and continued breastfeeding for up to two years and beyond, and related maternal nutrition and support. At the same time, the Global Strategy recognizes the situation of children in exceptionally difficult circumstances, including those born to HIV-positive women.
The HIV and Infant Feeding Framework for Priority Action was developed within the context of the Global Strategy, and endorsed by nine UN agencies. The purpose is to recommend to governments key priority actions, related to infant and young child feeding, that cover the special circumstances associated with HIV/AIDS. The aim should be to create and sustain an environment that encourages appropriate feeding practices for all infants, while scaling-up interventions to reduce HIV transmission.
The Framework proposes for consideration by governments the following priority actions related to infant and young child feeding:
- Develop or revise (as the case may be) a comprehensive national policy on infant and young child feeding which includes HIV and infant feeding
- Implement and enforce the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes and subsequent relevant WHA resolutions
- Intensify efforts to protect, promote and support appropriate infant and young child feeding practices in general, while recognizing HIV as one of a number of exceptionally difficult circumstances
- Provide adequate support to HIV-positive women to enable them to select the best feeding option for themselves and their babies and to successfully carry out their infant feeding decisions
Support research on HIV and infant feeding – including operations research, learning, monitoring and evaluation at all levels – and disseminate findings.