Purpose of review: To highlight recent research that has contributed to an improved understanding of, or resulted in, important changes in the approach to feeding HIV-exposed infants.
Recent findings: The administration of antiretroviral therapy to a HIV-positive pregnant woman and its continued use during breast-feeding significantly reduce postnatal HIV transmission to her child. Similarly, extended antiretroviral prophylaxis to the breast-feeding infant dramatically decreases HIV transmission and promotes HIV-free child survival. Predominant breast-feeding may be as effective as exclusive breast-feeding in reducing HIV transmission risk. The protective role of immune modulators such as interferon-gamma and interleukin-15 in preventing breast milk transmission is being better appreciated. Although infant-feeding counseling is critical to the success of infant survival strategies, it is generally done poorly with few examples of successful consequences other than in research settings.
Summary: Breast-feeding of HIV-exposed infants can be made considerably safer in resource-constrained settings through the provision of maternal highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART), maternal short-course antiretrovirals, and extended infant antiretroviral prophylaxis.