In a development that is likely to bring relief to women in Zimbabwe, Ministry of Health and Child Care has declared that HIV positive mothers who are active on Antiretroviral therapy (ARV)s can freely breastfeed without infecting their babies.
Breastfeeding mothers who are HIV positive find it hard to breast feed as they are afraid of infecting their babies through breast milk but National Prevention of mother-to-child-transmission (PMTC) and Pediatric HIV Care and Treatment Coordinator in the Ministry Of Health and Child Care, Dr Angela Mushavi confirmed that babies are not necessarily at risk of acquiring HIV from their positive mothers if they are active on Antiretroviral therapy (ARV)s .
“A baby born of an HIV positive mother is at risk of getting infected when in the womb, at birth and during breastfeeding,
“We put the mother on ARVs to cut off infection risk, pregnant mothers are advised to book for ante-natal clinic early so that they are tested for HIV and other infections. It is possible to give birth to an HIV negative baby,” said Dr Mushavi.
While less than five percent of babies in Zimbabwe are born HIV positive, government is working to eradicate mother to child infection.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), research emerged from South Africa showed that a combination of exclusive breastfeeding and the use of antiretroviral treatment can significantly reduce the risk of transmitting HIV to babies through breastfeeding.