Added by Annika L. Krugel on December 5, 2010
A South African provincial authority has been given the thumbs up by UNICEF over its decision to promote breastfeeding among all mothers, even those who are HIV-positive.
The department of health in KwaZulu Natal is the first province in the country to introduce these measures that will improve guidance and counseling to HIV-positive mothers, with the aim of preventing mother-child transmission and at the same time tackling current high rates of malnutrition.
United Nations Children’s Fund spokesperson, Shantha Bloemen, said the initiative had been introduced as a response to new guidelines released by the World Health Organisation.
While HIV-positive mothers previously were advised to rather feed their babies formula than breast milk, to help prevent the HIV virus from spreading, the new policy will support breastfeeding while ensuring that HIV-positive mother continue to take anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs).
The reasoning behind this decision is that although formula may have helped to reduce transmission “…it has contributed to higher rates of malnutrition and diarrhoea, often caused by lack of safe water and poor infant feeding practices,” Bloemen said. According to UNICEF, malnutrition is the underlying cause of 60 per cent of all cases of child mortality.
The UN agency is also supporting the national department of health in developing regulations concerning the market of breast milk alternatives; “This is to ensure that mothers and their families are not subjected to wide-scale aggressive marketing practices of formula milk companies,” explained Bloemen.
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