HTB South

Infant feeding: TAC’s position

The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) recently issued a position statement regarding infant feeding among HIV positive women in South Africa.

TAC notes that recommendations and practice have been divided between the promotion of exclusive breastfeeding (mainly in Kwazulu-Natal) and formula feeding (mainly in Western Cape and Guateng).

Following recent studies showing that the risk of transmitting HIV during breastfeeding can be reduced significantly with antiretroviral (ARV) treatment for the mother or prophylaxis for the infant, the South African government plans to implement a new infant feeding policy from April 1 2012. This policy recommends exclusive breast feeding for the first 6 months and then the introduction of complementary foods and continuing breastfeeding until the infant is 12 months old. This will be accompanied by the provision of ARV treatment for women so indicated and nevirapine prophylaxis for infants of HIV positive mothers not yet indicated for treatment in South Africa.

The TAC statement calls for the new policy to cater for women who are unable to exclusively breastfeed for various reasons. TAC also stresses the regional variation in risk from formula feeding in South Africa and the importance of responsible introduction of the new policy, with an emphasis on the provision of ARVs. They are concerned that the Department of Health intends to end formula milk provision by September 2012, which, they are concerned is far too abrupt.

They state that patient education and counselling and provision of ARVs at PMTCT sites are critical for the success of the policy. And, that there should not be a sudden withdrawal of formula milk.

For more information info@tac.org.za.

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