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TASILA’S DILEMMA What is the safest way for a mother living with HIV to feed her baby?
Lusaka, Zambia | Tasila and Felix When Tasila was pregnant with her son, she learned that she was living with HIV. Mothers can transmit the virus to their babies during pregnancy, breastfeeding and birth. Tasila needed to protect her baby. © UNICEF/NYHQ /Christine Nesbitt
Protecting Felix from HIV At the local antenatal clinic, she got medicines to prevent mother-to- child transmission of HIV (PMTCT). These drugs helped protect Felix from the virus, even while breastfeeding. Let’s find out how they worked. © UNICEF/NYHQ /Christine Nesbitt
Why not infant formula? Tasila, her son and their family. Some in her community suggested to this new mother that she feed Felix infant formula. They knew breast milk could carry HIV. But even formula carried risks for the baby’s health. © UNICEF/NYHQ /Christine Nesbitt © UNICEF/NYHQ /Christine Nesbitt
Safe breast milk works best Clean water for formula can be scarce in the developing world. Dirty water could make Felix ill from diarrhea – and could even kill him. Breast milk is best for babies, and antiretroviral medicines keep it safe for Felix. © UNICEF/NYHQ /Christine Nesbitt
Wide-ranging benefits Some developing countries now offer mothers living with HIV antiretroviral medicines for life, from early pregnancy onward. This protects the health of the mums, their sexual partners AND their babies. © UNICEF/NYHQ /Christine Nesbitt
Consistency counts Mums on antiretrovirals know that they must take their medicines on schedule daily to protect their babies while breastfeeding: no breaks or holidays! Their dedication protects them and their loved ones. © UNICEF/NYHQ /Christine Nesbitt
Success! At one year old, Felix is tested for HIV. A health worker delivers the news: So far, PMTCT has worked! At 18 months, Felix was confirmed HIV-free. Tasila’s diligence on her son’s behalf produced marvelous results. © UNICEF/NYHQ /Christine Nesbitt
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