A Better Future

New drug regimen reduces risk of HIV through breastfeeding

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

(RxWiki News) A three-drug preventative treatment proves effective in reducing transmission of HIV from breastfeeding, according to a recent study by the World Health Organization in Africa.

Around one million people in the United States are living with HIV and around 33 million people worldwide are infected. The human immunodeficiency virus attacks the immune system, preventing the body from adequately fighting off illness. Almost two million people die every year from HIV-related illness.

A major problem facing mothers today is the danger of passing along the virus to their children while breastfeeding. However, recent studies in Africa have found a way to decrease the risk of transmission by half with the use of a triple-drug regimen taken by infected mothers.

Researchers with the World Health Organization conducted a controlled study in Burkina Faso, Kenya and South Africa and analyzed the effectiveness of three antiretroviral drugs taken at once by women during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

The study, named the Kesho Bora Study ("better future" in Swahili), was centered around 824 HIV-positive women. They were randomly chosen to either take the three-drug regimen in late pregnancy and breastfeeding, or the standard regimen. The infants also received medication when they were born and after.

The preventative regimen consisted of zidovudine (AZT), lamivudine (3TC) and lopinavir with a ritonavir supplement twice daily. The standard treatment called for AZT alone twice daily. Both regimens were deemed "equally safe" by the study's conductors.

The rate of HIV transmission from breastfeeding was 53 percent lower in the triple-drug regimen and the cumulative rate of HIV transmission was 43 percent lower at 12 months of age. Starting these regimens early in pregnancy is vital in reducing infant HIV transmission, but ensuring rapid access to treatment and counseling poses a challenge in itself.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
January 17, 2011
Last Updated:
January 17, 2011