Q and A

Question

I’m detectable and breastfeeding, is there a risk?

If my viral load is detectable and I’m breastfeeding is my baby at risk? My baby is on medication.

Answer

Thanks for getting in touch.

Guidelines relating to breastfeeding and HIV positive mothers vary depending on where a woman lives globally. In the UK breastfeeding isn’t advised and this is even when someone has an undetectable viral load.

If a woman who is positive is breastfeeding when their viral load is detectable, then yes there is a risk of transmission. This is even if the baby is on medication. As to the level of risk its not possible to say. If in doubt the best and safest option is to give a baby formula.

5 comments

  1. Ameswa

    Hi. I just want to ask if is it possible for me to breastfeed my baby when he is six months? My viral load is undetectable and I never breastfeeded my baby at birth. Can I start breastfeeding at 6 months and also give him some solid foods. Thank you

  2. Roy Trevelion

    Hi Charlotte,

    It’s great that you are taking HIV medication (ART) and have an undetectable viral load. ART can look after your health and it can look after your baby’s health too. So you are doing what you can to protect your baby from HIV.

    However, please see the Q&A where Angelina explains what is the safest way to feed your baby. So it’s important you discuss breastfeeding with your doctor.

    The World Health Organisation recommends that if a woman is taking HIV treatment (ART), then she should breastfeed exclusively for 6 months. After 6 months the baby can then be weaned onto a safe diet without breastfeeding.

    Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended because mixed feeding carries a greater risk of transmission.

    Please also talk to your doctor about Septrin. This is usually given to help treat or prevent other infections.

  3. Charlotte

    Am HIV positive mother on medication and my viral load was undetectable…. Can I breastfeed my baby for 15months or am risking my baby. Please note ; baby is given septrin on daily basis

  4. Lisa Thorley

    Hi Linda.

    If you’re undetectable then there’s no reason why you cannot have a vaginal delivery. Your HIV isn’t an issue.
    Guidelines around breastfeeding vary from country to country. In the UK breastfeeding isn’t recommended and this is even if a woman’s viral load is undetectable. However in the South Africa it is. This is something that you should talk to a healthcare professional about. The following may also help: http://i-base.info/guides/pregnancy

  5. Linda

    Hello i need your advise urgently.
    I’m hiv+ and 36 weeks pregnant. I found out about my status when i was 2-3 months preg then i started arv meds immediately. Now at the clinic they say I’m doing well my viral load is undetectable so I want to know does that means
    i will give birth virginal or with a c-sec.?
    Also want to know
    Which way is best to feed my baby formula or breastfeeding? Coz it has been always my wish to breastfeed my baby before i found out abt my status but now I’m scared to risk to transmit virus to a innocent soul and also don’t mind to formula feed her if is the best coz i can i afford it. Im really worried and want to know which way is best for her with no harm or even uncomfortable side effects to her. Plz help me I’m worried and confused as I’m gonna give birth anytime soon.
    I’m from South Africa. Thank you in advance

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