If you have AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome), it means that you have an infection with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). People with AIDS and HIV-positive people may have detectable amounts of HIV in their blood and certain other body fluids, including breast milk. Some babies that are born to HIV-positive women and women with AIDS may have HIV in their body at birth and can develop AIDS.
The risk of an HIV-positive woman or woman with AIDS passing the HIV to her baby through breastfeeding depends upon the amount (called level or titer) of HIV in her breast milk. Remember that an infant or child who is exposed to HIV through the breast milk of its mother may become HIV-positive and can develop AIDS.
According to the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics, HIV-positive women in the U.S. and women with AIDS in the U.S. should not breastfeed their infants and children (reference 1). Regardless of where you live, if you are HIV-positive, or are being treated for HIV infection, or have AIDS, or are being treated for AIDS, you should ask your doctors and other healthcare providers about the level of HIV in your breast milk and discuss with them this important concern before you make any decision about breastfeeding.
Even if you are being treated with anti-retroviral medications for AIDS, you still may have detectable amounts of HIV in your blood and other body fluids, including your breast milk. Therefore, even though you are being treated for AIDS, ask your doctors and other healthcare providers about the level of HIV in your breast milk and talk with them about these important issues regarding breastfeeding.
Also, anti-retroviral drugs and other medicines used to treat people with AIDS are powerful medications that can have serious side effects. Certain medications may be able to enter the breast milk and could harm a baby who is being nursed. To ensure the safety of your baby, discuss this important concern about medication entering your breast milk with your doctors and your other healthcare providers.
By your being fully informed about all these issues related to breastfeeding, you will be able to make the right decision for you and your baby.
1. American Academy of Pediatrics. Policy statement: Breastfeeding and the use of human milk. Pediatrics. 2005; 115(2):496- 505.