Breast feeding and HIV transmission
Researchers have found that infants born to HIV postive mothers in Africa are less likely to contract HIV if they are fed nothing but breastmilk in the first 6 months of lilfe, compared to a mixture of breastmilk and other foods.
Infants who received formula milk or animal milk in addition to breast milk were nearly twice as likely to be infected as infants who received breast milk only.
And those given solids in addition to breast milk were almost 11 times more likely to acquire infection.
It is thought that this higher risk is due to the larger, more complex proteins found in solid foods which may lead to greater damage to the lining of the stomach, allowing the virus to pass through the gut wall. [BBC]
Breastfeeding carries a small but significant risk of mother-to-child transmission and women who can afford to feed their infants nothing but formula are advised to do so. However, many African women with HIV can't afford an all-formula diet.