Are You Passing HIV on to Your Baby

HIV transmission through breast milk not known by some women

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) One key to preventing the spread of any infectious disease is teaching people how to avoid giving it to others. But when it comes to HIV, there is often confusion about this.

A recent small study has found that more HIV positive women should know about the risk of passing along HIV by breastfeeding.

"HIV positive women should ask their doctor about breastfeeding."

Julia Zur, of the Department of Mental Health at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and colleagues wanted to find out what drug-addicted women knew regarding the transmission of HIV through breast milk.

They surveyed 97 pregnant women from Baltimore who were using one or more illegal drugs. A total of 37 percent said they smoked marijuana while 36 percent used heroin and 67 percent smoked crack.

Seventy-two women, or 74 percent, gave the correct answer when asked if breast milk could transmit HIV to a baby. Breast milk is one of the four body fluids, along with blood, semen and vaginal secretions, which can transmit the virus that causes AIDS.

Those who were less likely to be correctly informed about the risk of transmission were white women and women who had smoked crack within the past six months.

"Our findings have important implications with regard to preventive interventions for this population," the authors wrote.

"Future research is needed to determine how to best modify these interventions to address the specific needs of drug-dependent pregnant women, and how to specifically target white women and women who smoke crack," they concluded.

The study was published online June 7 in the journal AIDS Care. No information was available regarding the funding or possible conflicts of interest.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
June 15, 2012
Last Updated:
October 24, 2012