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To provide HIV-positive mothers who opted for exclusive breastfeeding or formula feeding from birth to 6 months postpartum as a means of prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV with a sustainable infant food support programme (FSP) from 6 to 12 months postpartum. We describe the implementation and assessment of this pilot initiative.
The FSP included a 6-month provision of locally produced infant fortified mix (IFM; 418 kJ/100 g of gruel) for non-breastfed infants coupled with infant-feeding and psychosocial counselling and support. Acceptability and feasibility were assessed in a subsample of sixty-eight mother–infant pairs.
The FSP was developed in collaboration with local partners to support participants in a PMTCT prevention study. Formula was provided for free from 0 to 6 months postpartum. Cessation by 6 months was recommended for breastfeeding mothers.
The FSP was positively received and greatly encouraged breastfeeding mothers to cease by 6 months. As recommended, most infants were given milk as an additional replacement food, mainly formula subsidised by safety networks. Among daily IFM consumers, feeding practices were satisfactory overall; however, the IFM was shared within the family by more than one-third of the mothers. Cessation of IFM consumption was observed among twenty-two infants, seventeen of whom were fed milk and five neither of these.
Without any food support most mothers would have been unable to provide appropriate replacement feeding. The food security of non-breastfed infants urgently needs to be addressed in HIV PMTCT programmes. Our findings on a simple cost-effective pioneer intervention provide an important foundation for this process.
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