HIV and infant feeding 2018: Part 1

HIV and infant feeding 2018: Part 1

Stefania Manfra

December 1st was World Aids Day. It is an opportunity to remind people that HIV still exists and there is still much work to do on increasing awareness. Over 101,000 people in the UK are living with HIV and around 5000 are diagnosed each year. There is still considerable ignorance about how people can protect themselves and stigma and discrimination are realities.

This guest blog from Stefania Manfra is a summary of her research and poster at Baby Friendly Conference in November 2018.  Part 2 of our blogs on infant feeding and HIV, by Pamela Morrison, will summarise new guidance that was published in December 2018 for World Aids Day.

It was Spring 2018 when I decided to send the abstract of my dissertation, examining how HIV+ mothers can be supported in making an informed choice on infant feeding options, to the Unicef Baby Friendly Initiative UK with the hope to have it selected as a poster presentation to be displayed at its Annual Conference in Liverpool. How delighted I was when I received the email confirming that my abstract had been chosen!

Let’s start by saying that in the UK the infant feeding recommendation in the presence of HIV is primarily to avoid breastfeeding due to the risk of vertical transmission from mother to baby through the breastmilk (BHIVA and Children’s HIV Association (CHIVA), 2010). However, BHIVA and CHIVA (2010) also acknowledge the fact that HIV+ women who are receiving HAART (highly active antiretroviral therapy) and who have an undetectable viral load at birth, may choose to breastfeed for the first six months of the baby’s life. If they wish to do so they should be supported in their choice. In such scenarios, the recommendations are: maternal HAART treatment and short-term infant prophylaxis, exclusive breastfeeding for six months, careful monitoring of maternal HAART adherence and monthly maternal viral load testing alongside infant HIV status (BHIVA & CHIVA, 2010). These recommendations were reviewed in 2014 and retained.

Meanwhile, the updated guidelines on HIV and infant feeding from the World Health Organisation (WHO) (2016) recommend that HIV+ mothers should exclusively breastfeed their infants for the first six months and then introduce complementary food thereafter while continuing breastfeeding for at least 12 months, alongside receiving HAART and being fully supported with the adherence of the therapy, regardless of their CD4 count. This is known as Option B+ (WHO, 2013).

Below are the findings of my review.

Slide1

In developing countries, not breastfeeding is associated with high child morbidity and mortality, particularly related to gastrointestinal problems due to the lack of clean water and sanitation, hence making it unsafe to formula feed. On the other hand, in developed countries, where formula feeding is considered affordable, feasible, acceptable, safe and sustainable (AFASS) (WHO, 2016), bottle-feeding is the recommended choice for HIV+ women.

For that reason, in the UK, infant feeding recommendations in the presence of HIV are primarily to avoid breastfeeding, regardless of maternal viral load or antiretroviral treatment (BHIVA & CHIVA, 2010).

However, BHIVA & CHIVA (2010), also acknowledge that HIV+ women with undetectable viral load at delivery, CD4 count >350 cells and receiving HAART, may choose to breastfeed for the first six months if they wish to do so and should be supported in their choice.

Midwives should provide women living with HIV with evidence-based and unbiased information to enable informed choice and be conversant with current local, national and international guidelines on HIV and breastfeeding.

Likewise, Indicator 8 “Infant Feeding and HIV” from the World Breastfeeding Trend Initiative UK (WBTi) report (2016), found that not all healthcare professionals in the UK receive up-to-date training on this topic. In addition, the feeding method of an HIV-exposed infant does not seem to be recorded. Hence we do not have an accurate number of how many of these infants in the UK are (officially) being breastfed.

In line with the recommendations stated in the WBTi Report (2016), to increase women’s knowledge and to facilitate informed choice, healthcare professionals have a duty to educate women living with HIV on factors affecting vertical transmission and support them in their choice of infant feeding methods, through antenatal health education.

 

References

BHIVA and CHIVA (2010) Position statement on infant feeding in the UK. (reviewed and retained 2014)

World Health Organisation (WHO) (2013) Consolidated guidelines on the use of antiretroviral drugs fro treating and preventing HIV infection.

World Health Organisation (WHO) (2016) Updates on HIV and infant feeding guidelines.

World Breastfeeding Trends Initiative (WBTi) Report on the UK (2016) Indicator 8 – Infant Feeding and HIV. 

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Stefanie Manfra

Stephania Manfra

I am a newly qualified midwife, in my current Trust for the past 5 months.
I am passionate about breastfeeding and about providing evidence-based, unbiased information to women and their families to help facilitate informed choice.
I am currently embarking on specialist breastfeeding and lactation training. I am also planning to do a Master’s Degree in Advanced Midwifery Practice in the near future.
SAFER MODEL OF BREASTFEEDING WITH HIV

Prevention intention

Prevention intention

A Vision for Prevention

Matt Hancock, UK Secretary of State for Health and Social Care since July 2018, launched his prevention vision on 5 November.

His other priorities are to advance health technology and provide better support for the health and social care workforce. He sees prevention as having two aspects. Partly it is about keeping well physically and mentally, to prevent ill health, but  also about the environment around people, their lifestyle choices and how existing health conditions are managed. The aims are for the average person to have 5 more years of healthy independent living by 2035, and to reduce the gap between the richest and poorest. At present there is a large discrepancy in spending with £97 billion (public money) spent on treating disease and £8 billion on prevention across the UK!

The proposed actions in the vision  are:

  • “Prioritising investment in primary and community healthcare
  • Making sure every child has the best start in life (our emphasis)
  • Supporting local councils to take the lead in improving health locally through innovation, communication and community outreach
  • Coordinating transport, housing, education, the workplace and the environment – in the grand enterprise to improve our nation’s health
  • Involving employers, businesses, charities, the voluntary sector and local groups in creating safe, connected and healthy neighbourhoods and workplaces”

The Department of Health and Social Care’s (DHSC) paper is called ‘Prevention is better than cure: Our vision to help you live well for longer‘.

It states there is strong evidence that prevention works and recognises that a healthy population is both vital for a strong economy and for reducing pressure on services like the NHS (almost 10% of the national income is spent on healthcare). Average life expectancy is now 81 years, helped by:

  • advances in healthcare
  • changing attitudes so there is less stigma with some conditions
  • improvements in the environment, at home, work and in neighbourhoods
  • antibiotics and mass vaccination
  • public health programmes.

However, there are major challenges in the huge discrepancies between areas – ‘A boy born today in the most deprived area of England can expect to live about 19 fewer years in good health and die nine years earlier than a boy born into the least deprived area.’ (p.7)

Duncan Selbie, Chief Executive of Public Health England, welcomed the change of focus to more emphasis on prevention and pointed out the need for collaborative working – NHS, national government, local government, voluntary and community sector, and industry.  It will be important to monitor industry involvement to ensure that it does not create conflicts of interest, undermining health. Infants, young children, pregnant and breastfeeding mothers are particularly vulnerable, which is why the World Health Organisation developed guidance to protect them from conflicts of interest (WHO 2016 Guidance on the Inappropriate Promotion of Foods for Infants and Young Children) and other inappropriate commercial influence (International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, 1981, and subsequent WHA resolutions).

Improvements will depend both on encouraging individuals to choose healthy lifestyles and manage their own health, and expecting local authorities to take the lead in improving the health of their communities. The challenges of smoking, mental ill health, obesity, high blood pressure and alcolol-related harm are mentioned, along with the benefit of having a more personalised approach to health.

The section on ‘Giving our children the best start in life’ (p.20) mentions healthier pregnancies, improved language acquisition, reducing parental conflict, improving dental health, protecting mental health and  schools involvement, but infant feeding is not mentioned at all! 

However, in the Parliamentary debate on the vision (Prevention of Ill Health: Government Vision) on 5 November, Alison Thewliss MP made the case for supporting breastfeeding by investing in the Baby Friendly Initiative to bring all maternity and community services up to the minimum standard. Matthew Hancock’s reply sounds positive: ‘The earlier that we can start with this sort of strategy of preventing ill health the better, and there is a lot of merit in a lot of what the hon. Lady said.’

 

‘Prevention, Protection and Promotion’ at Public Health England

Earlier in the year (March 2018), Professor Viv Bennett, the Chief Public Health Nurse, and Professor Jane Cummings, the Chief Nursing Officer, came together to launch a campaign on the ‘3Ps –  Prevention, Protection and Promotion’, which is about actions to improve public health and reduce health inequalities. Breastfeeding is mentioned in the Maternity Transformation Campaign and Better Births and there appears to be increased govenment commitment to the key role breastfeeding plays in improving public health.

 

Directors of Public Health have a key role

The DHSC paper expects Directors of Public Health to ‘play an important leadership role’ (p.15). As an example, the Annual Report of Croydon’s Director of Public Health, published in mid-November, We are Croydon: Early Experiences Last a Lifetime, focusses this year on the first 1000 days of a child’s life.

It includes three breastfeeding recommendations:

  • Reset targets for increasing breastfeeding rates at 6 to 8 weeks and 6 months across the Borough and within particular localities
  • Achieve level 3 of the UNICEF Baby Friendly award
  • Turn Croydon into a breastfeeding friendly Borough, so women feel comfortable breastfeeding when they are out and about

 

How can progress on prevention occur unless it starts at the beginning – with infants? Will other Directors come up with similar recommendations?

 

Make London a ‘Baby-Friendly’ city

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, aims to “make London a ‘Baby-Friendly’ city” in the London Food Strategy. This strategy aims to increase the health of all Londoners from infancy onwards, including supporting and normalising breastfeeding across London Transport and across government buildings and workplaces, and encouraging all London boroughs to become Unicef UK Baby Friendly-accredited in maternity and community services.

 

The UK government is due to publish a Green Paper on Prevention in 2019 to set out more detailed plans and, together with the NHS Long Term Plan, which is due to be published soon,  is relevant to a future with better health for all.

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30. Photo for WBTi MAINN presentation
Patricia Wise is an NCT breastfeeding counsellor and a member of the WBTi Steering Group.