UNICEF Responds to Wall Street Journal Regarding Breastfeeding and HIV
UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy writes in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece that the Dec. 5 article regarding the debate between the fund and infant formula makers over whether and how infant formula should be distributed to HIV-positive pregnant women in developing countries "implies that UNICEF has been doing little to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV in Africa, instead spending most of its time sparring with the infant-formula industry" (Bellamy, Wall Street Journal, 12/14). The Journal reported that two infant-formula makers, Nestle SA and Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories Inc., proposed donating "tons" of formula to the fund for distribution to HIV-positive women in Africa who risk transmitting the virus to their infants through their breast milk. But UNICEF, which runs a broad breastfeeding campaign, rejected their offers based on a "voluntary marketing code" devised by the fund and the World Health Organization in the 1980s after formula marketing in developing countries caused dependency and many babies starved (Kaiser Daily HIV Reports, 12/5). Bellamy holds that the Journal "fails to acknowledge" that UNICEF is "leading the way" on the issue and that the agency is implementing a "sophisticated approach" to the dilemma "through HIV testing and counseling, by supporting mothers in their feeding choices, and ... by procuring and providing a free supply of formula to women who make that choice." According to Bellamy, UNICEF "strongly supports" the International Code on the Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes adopted by the World Health Assembly, and has never viewed formula as a "bad" product, but rather has had concerns over its marketing and will not accept donations from companies found in violation of that code (Wall Street Journal, 12/14).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.