Date Published: May 17, 2018
Author(s): Stephen O. Olorunfemi, Lilian Dudley.
The balance between the risks of transmission of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) through breastfeeding and its life-saving benefits complicates decisions about infant feeding among HIV-positive mothers in the first 6 months.
The aim of this study was to assess the knowledge, attitude and practice of infant feeding among HIV-positive mothers attending the prevention of mother-to-child transmission services in Maseru, Lesotho.
This observational cross-sectional study was done by collecting data from HIV-positive mothers attending the filter clinics of Queen Mamohato Memorial hospital in Maseru, Lesotho. HIV-positive mothers with infants below the age of 6 months attending the clinics at the time of the study were interviewed using a standardised questionnaire. We described the sociodemographic profile of the mothers, the information and education received on prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) infant feeding options, the mothers’ knowledge, attitudes and practices of infant feeding, and assessed risk factors for improved knowledge, attitudes and practices.
The majority (96%) of the 191 HIV-positive mothers who participated in the survey knew about the PMTCT programme and related breastfeeding services. Most of the participants chose to breastfeed (89%), while only 8% formula-fed their infants. Knowledge received during the PMTCT programme was significantly associated with the decision to exclusively breastfeed their infants. Earlier infant feeding counselling and education was associated with more exclusively breastfeeding as compared to late infant feeding counselling (p < 0.001). The study found that HIV-positive mothers attending health clinics in Maseru, Lesotho, had high knowledge, and appropriate attitudes and practices with respect to infant feeding; and that early counselling and education improved infant feeding methods among these mothers.
The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) reported in 2015 that there were an estimated 36.7 million people living with HIV globally, 1.8 million of whom were children. Of this population, 2.1 million were newly infected and 1.1 million died from the disease.1 Approximately 380 000 of the 1.89 million population of Lesotho are infected with HIV, of whom 38 000 were children between the age of 0–15 years and 342 000 were adults above the age of 15 years in 2014.2 Of an estimated 55 000 annual births in the country, approximately 15 235 infants were born to HIV-infected mothers in 2014.2
This study investigated infant feeding KAP of HIV-positive mothers at health clinics referring to Queen Mamohato Memorial hospital in Maseru, Lesotho. The high response rate and profile of mothers who participated in the study is typical of HIV-positive women in developing countries where MTCT of HIV is a public health challenge.11
HIV-positive mothers attending the PMTCT programme in Lesotho generally are knowledgeable and show a positive disposition to EBF their infants, with a clear understanding of the benefits of EBF.