Helping Women with HIV Decide About Breastfeeding: What Family Planning Programs Can Do

This brief focuses on the following points:

  • The AIDS crisis has focused concern on HIV transmission through breastfeeding, while drawing attention away from the risks to infant health of not breastfeeding. The mistaken belief that all mothers infected with HIV will pass HIV to their infants through breastfeeding has overshadowed the health and life-saving benefits of breastfeeding.
  • Depending on her circumstances, a woman can rely on several safer breastfeeding and nonbreastfeeding options. WHO and UNICEF recommend, where safe alternatives to breastmilk are not available, that women with HIV breastfeed their infants exclusively for the first months of life before switching completely to replacement foods when possible.
  • Program managers can ensure that family planning providers are taught the facts about HIV and breastfeeding and taught how to help women with HIV weigh the
    various risks in deciding whether to breastfeed.


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INFO Project at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Center for Communication Programs