Guardian Examines Challenges To Reducing Mother-to-Child HIV Transmission in Mozambique
London's Guardian on Saturday examined the hurdles Mozambique is facing in trying to reduce mother-to-child HIV transmission. About 35,000 infants contract the virus from their mothers annually in Mozambique, and only 3% of women in the country were tested for HIV in 2003, the Guardian reports. Clinics are able to reduce the risk of vertical HIV transmission by giving pregnant women and their newborns the antiretroviral drug nevirapine and by performing caesarean-section deliveries. However, the costs and risks associated with c-sections have prevented some clinics from performing the procedure. International medical aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres helped Mozambique's government launch a program to reduce mother-to-child HIV transmission through breastfeeding by providing milk powder at a cost of about $16 per month per infant. However, the government recently dropped the program -- and MSF supported the decision -- because of its high costs and the "dangers presented by unsafe water and artificial milk," according to the Guardian. Studies have shown that an infant in Africa fed with artificial milk during the first two months of life is six times as likely to die from infectious diseases as a breastfed infant. It is common in many African countries to breastfeed infants for two years, but combining breastmilk and other foods can increase the risk of HIV transmission because solids, such as corn porridge, can cause small cuts in infants' throats and mouths that make it easier for HIV to enter the bloodstream. Therefore, the World Health Organization recommends that HIV-positive women wean their infants quickly, in about two to three days (Bunting, Guardian, 12/10).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.