Not Recommended, But Done: Breastfeeding with HIV in Germany

AIDS Patient Care STDS. 2021 Feb;35(2):33-38. doi: 10.1089/apc.2020.0223.


Breastfeeding (BF) in mothers living with HIV (MLWH) is still discussed controversially in resource-rich settings. In Germany, where formula feeding is recommended for MLWH single BF cases have been reported, but no systematic data collection and analysis are available so far. This study, titled HELENE, aims to fill this data gap. A questionnaire covering the course of BF was distributed by a graduate student visiting each study site. Information was collected from patient files and by personal communication with the health care provider. Primary study objectives were the duration of BF and the maternal antiretroviral treatment (ART). Fifteen treatment centers across Germany contributed a total of 42 BF cases, observed from May 2009 to July 2020. There was an increasing number of BF cases over time. The median duration of BF was 20 weeks varying from single BF of colostrum to 104 weeks. All BF women except one elite controller received ART: 39% non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor-, 37% INSTI-, 29% protease inhibitor-based regimens; one woman was on maraviroc. Thirty-nine percent of the ART regimens included drugs that were not recommended by the German-Austrian pregnancy guidelines. Our findings highlight the diversity of BF cases in Germany in terms of duration, maternal ART, and monitoring. Since the number of BF cases is increasing, guidelines are obliged to implement more detailed recommendations on BF, the monitoring of BF mothers, and the follow-up of the infants. There is an urgent need for prospective national and European data collections to further improve HIV prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) in the setting of BF.

Keywords: HIV; PMTCT; breastfeeding; high-income countries; women.

MeSH terms

  • Anti-HIV Agents / administration & dosage
  • Anti-HIV Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Breast Feeding / statistics & numerical data*
  • Child
  • Female
  • Germany
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy*
  • HIV Infections / transmission
  • HIV Infections / virology
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infectious Disease Transmission, Vertical / prevention & control*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / drug therapy*
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / prevention & control
  • Prospective Studies
  • Viral Load


  • Anti-HIV Agents