Don’t breastfeed more than 12 months, expert tells HIV positive mothers

By Hassan Zaggi

Women who are HIV positive have been advised not breastfeed their babies for more than one year.

A Consultant and Associate Professor in Infectious disease and Respiratory at the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital (UCTH(, Atana Ewa, who gave the advice at a three-day media dialogue for journalists in Calabar, yesterday, insisted that, that is the most reliable way of  preventing  HIV-free children from being infected with the disease by their mothers.

The three-day dialogue was put together by the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture in collaboration with the United Nation Children Fund (UNICEF).

According to Ewa: “A mother who is HIV positive can breastfeed under ART cover. She must know her viral load and she must know that she is taking drugs. But no matter how much she loves the breastfeeding or the child, she should not pass one year.

“She must stop at 12 months. Exclusive breastfeeding for six months and she continues, but not beyond one year.”

She, however, warned HIV positive mothers not to breastfeed for more than 12 months because, according to her: The longer you breastfeed, you are increasing the chances of passing the virus to the child.

“Even though she is on ART cover, let it not be too long because nobody knows the level below which infection can occur or cant occur.”

She further advice healthcare givers to include HIV screening for children who present to the hospital with malaria, typhoid  or pneumonia symptoms.

This, she said is to detect and provide early treatment for children infected with HIV.

 “The most reliable form of managing children with HIV is when you see a child presenting to a health facility, while you look for malaria and typhoid or pneumonia, also counsel and do HIV test so that we can pick them early and offer the treatment that will help their survival. Adolescents, do the same,” she stressed.

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