A Lesser Evil?

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April 26 2007 11:00 PM ET

Researchers say that breast-feeding, not formula, might give children of HIV-positive mothers in African nations the best chance of building strong immune systems'despite the risk of infants' contracting the virus. Hoosen Coovadia, a pediatrician at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, says that in countries where clean water for preparing infant formula is not available, the potential 300,000 HIV transmissions that could result from breast-feeding could in the long run save 1.5 million children from dying of other diseases that they could fight if they had stronger immune systems.

The findings, reported at the 14th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, supported World Health Organization recommendations in October that HIV-infected mothers exclusively breast-feed infants for their first six months unless substitute formula is acceptable, feasible, affordable, sustainable, and safe for them and their infants.

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