What factors influence the risk of HIV transmission in breast milk?

HIV is present in breast milk and HIV can be transmitted in the mother’s milk to the breastfeeding infant. The risk is greatest if the mother both breastfeeds and gives other foods, such as water, fruit juice, formula feeds and solids (i.e. mixed breastfeeding). With mixed breastfeeding the risk of passing HIV to the infant is:

  1. 5% in the first 6 months
  2. 5% from 6 to 12 months
  3. 5% from 12 to 18 months

The risk of HIV transmission with breastfeeding is further increased if:

  • The mother becomes infected with HIV during the time that she is breastfeeding.
  • The mother has AIDS.
  • The mother has cracked nipples, mastitis or a breast abscess.
  • The infant has oral thrush.

The risk of transmission is determined by the amount of HIV in the breast milk. This is very high soon after infection with HIV and again with symptomatic HIV infection.

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