Pregnant women living with HIV in South Africa are significantly less likely to express an intent to breastfeed their baby. This is according to research by non-profit organisation Witkoppen Health and Welfare Centre. World Breastfeeding Week, which takes place from 1 to 7 August, aims to encourage breastfeeding among all mothers, especially those living with HIV.
“Among all women who had opted for formula feeding instead of breastfeeding, the decision to do so was driven by the fear of HIV transmission to the baby,” says Executive Director of the Centre, Dr Jean Bassett. “This is largely due to inconsistent information being supplied to expecting moms by healthcare providers. Women are not properly educated about mother to child HIV transmission. This needs to change.”
If proper precautions are taken, an HIV positive mother can breastfeed without passing on the virus to their child. A combination of breastfeeding and consistent antiretroviral treatment can significantly reduce the risk of transmitting HIV to babies through breastfeeding. Since 2010, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has recommended lifelong antiretroviral treatment for all women living with HIV, and exclusive breastfeeding for six-months followed by breastfeeding until 24-months for all HIV positive mothers.
“Breastmilk has the ideal nutrition for babies and helps to prevent illness and infant death, as it contains key antibodies. Babies need nothing more than breastmilk for the first six months of life, not even water or juice,” says Bassett. “For moms, it aids with recovery after birth and strengthens the bond with their child. It has also been found to reduce the risk of breast and ovarian cancer, type two diabetes and depression amongst mothers.”
To celebrate the week and raise awareness around the importance of breastfeeding, Witkoppen’s antenatal and postnatal clinics will be running daily health talks, as well as breastfeeding-themed quizzes with prizes for the winners. “We want to make breastfeeding something that mothers want to learn more about, which is why we’re hosting these activities,” says Bassett.
The Centre provides a range of other healthcare services, including HIV and TB testing, a mental health clinic, dentist, as well as the opportunity to consult qualified doctors, nurses, psychologists and pharmacists.
For more information on the services they provide, visit www.witkoppen.org. Interesting facts and service updates can be found on Facebook (@WitkoppenHealthandWelfareCentre) and Twitter (@Witkoppen105).
Distributed by Be-cause Integrated Communications:
021 447 1082 / 073 1199200
On behalf of Witkoppen Health and Welfare Centre:
Director: Dr Jean Bassett