Infant feeding and prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV-1

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Purpose of review

To review new studies and directions regarding infant feeding and HIV-1 transmission.

Recent findings

With antiretroviral drugs and shortened breastfeeding, breast milk HIV-1 transmission risk can be decreased from 16 to less than 5%. In the context of peripartum antiretroviral drugs/short breastfeeding, replacement feeding provides negligible benefit in decreasing the risk of HIV-1/death in contrast to previous studies of no antiretroviral drugs/unlimited breastfeeding in which it offered benefit. One study noted a high risk of infant HIV-1 or death (≥17%) after 4 months, with no difference in risk in infants with shortened breastfeeding versus indefinite breastfeeding. This study suggests that shortened breastfeeding needs caution in implementation. Other African studies have noted minimal risk of HIV-1 or death (< 2%) after shortened breastfeeding, underscoring the heterogeneity of infant survival in different settings and the potential to improve infant survival.


Antiretroviral drugs and shortened breastfeeding markedly decrease breastfeeding HIV-1 transmission, shifting the balance to make replacement feeding less beneficial. In some settings shortened breastfeeding poses similar risks as replacement feeding and provides no infant health benefit compared with extended breastfeeding. Programmes aimed at decreasing infant HIV-1 need to do so in the context of promoting infant survival. Strengthening systems to promote infant health is critical.

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