Knowledge of pregnant women on transmission of HIV infection through breast feeding

Curationis. 2008 Sep;31(3):21-6. doi: 10.4102/curationis.v31i3.1016.


Although breast-feeding is nature's way of providing nutrition to the baby, in HIV positive mothers this has been identified as one of the means through which HIV infection is transmitted from the mother to the child. In Africa where children under the age of 5 are killed by preventable diseases like diarrhoea, the issue of HIV transmission through breast feeding poses an added huge problem. Research has, however shown that exclusive infant feeding, be it breast or formula, reduces the risk substantially. It is imperative that mothers be informed about safer methods of infant feeding so that HIV infection is kept to a minimum. The objective of the study was to explore and describe the knowledge that pregnant women had about mother to child transmission of HIV infection through breast-feeding. A non-experimental quantitative exploratory and descriptive research design was used to explore the knowledge women had on mother to child transmission of HIV infection through breast-feeding. From the data collected, it showed that although women were aware of the susceptibility of children to HIV infection if fed on breast and formula feeds simultaneously by HIV positive mothers, exclusive feeding was a problem as people associated the practise with a positive HIV status. Women who had not disclosed their HIV status and were HIV positive, found it difficult to comply with the requirement to exclusively feed their infants. These either continued with complementary feeds or did not collect the free formula milk supply preferring instead to buy the formula feeds privately. In this study it was recommended that information on transmission of HIV infection from mother to child through breast -feeding including the benefits of exclusive infant feeding, be it breast or formula, for the first three to six months be provided to the community so that relatives can support the mother on infant feeding method of choice.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Botswana
  • Breast Feeding*
  • Female
  • HIV Infections* / prevention & control
  • HIV Infections* / psychology
  • HIV Infections* / transmission
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infectious Disease Transmission, Vertical / prevention & control*
  • Middle Aged
  • Pregnancy
  • Young Adult