More HIV moms choose breastfeeding

Cape Town - More HIV-positive mothers in the Western Cape are opting for breast-feeding over formula feeding as the government intensifies its campaign for women to breast-feed exclusively to reduce child mortality.

Sithembiso Magubane, spokesperson for the provincial Department of Health, said about 53 percent of HIV-infected mothers breast-fed their babies last year, while 47 percent chose formula food. This is a vast improvement on the rate in 2010 when about 82 percent of HIV-positive mothers chose formula.

The head of the Department of Health in KZN, Dr Sibongile Zungu, said the initiative would be the first of its kind in the country, and was aimed at reducing infant mortality. Picture: Neil Bayne. Credit: INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS

August 1 to 7 is international World Breast-feeding Week.

Following Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi’s signing of the Tshwane Declaration of Support for Breast-Feeding in 2011, the government had gradually done away with the provision of free formula to HIV-positive mothers in state-run hospitals and clinics – unless certified by a doctor.

The declaration committed resources to promoting exclusive breast-feeding and providing support for workplace breast-feeding.

Nationally, exclusive breast-feeding remains low at about 8 percent – the lowest rate in the world. Although HIV is transmitted in breast milk, when given with antiretrovirals, exclusive breast-feeding cuts the risk of HIV transmission to below two percent. - Cape Argus