La Leche League Leaders

La Leche League Leaders
La Leche League Leaders

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Another Look

December 1st was World Aids Day. In honor of this, we'd like to share a link for an organization entitled Another Look.

AnotherLook is a nonprofit organization dedicated to gathering information, raising critical questions, and stimulating needed research about breastfeeding in the context of HIV/AIDS.

The following letter was written by LLLI Founder & President and CEO of Another Look, Marian Tompson:

December 1, 2008

Dear Friend of AnotherLook,

Today - World Aids Day - is a fitting time to send you an update on what AnotherLook did in 2008 and is currently doing.

First of all, there have been interesting changes in infant feeding recommendations. Women in developing countries are being encouraged to exclusively breastfeed their babies for six months. This is a significant change from the 1997 WHO recommendations when women were told to not breastfeed at all, if formula was acceptable, feasible, affordable, sustainable and safe. Unfortunately, HIV positive women in industrialized countries, including the United States, are still being told not to breastfeed. Sweden is the only industrialized nation where breastfeeding by an HIV positive mother is forbidden by law. Women in industrial countries are threatened with having their babies taken away if they breastfeed, despite the fact that there is no evidence that babies who are breastfed by HIV positive mothers are more likely to get sick and die than those who are fed formula, nor proof that HIV in breast milk is actually infectious or that the baby can be infected by the virus in breast milk. Two years ago AnotherLook was contacted by an HIV positive mother in Indiana, whose newborn baby was put into foster care for three months after she breastfed in the hospital.

In 2008 AnotherLook activities were aimed at gathering information, raising critical questions and stimulating needed research about breastfeeding in the context of HIV and AIDS. These activities included:

* Participating in the first meeting of the World Alliance For Breastfeeding Action (WABA) North America Region and leading a session in the meeting on Reducing Discrimination Toward HIV+ Mothers in North America on Infant Feeding Issues.
* Moving forward on a research project to survey the policies and practices of Child Protective Services in the USA toward HIV+ mothers who wish to breastfeed. A Masters Level student in Public Health will do the study as a practicum. (In a sample test in one state, we were told that if the HIV+ mother who chose to breastfeed was not well educated, it would be assumed that she didn’t understand the warning from her doctor not to breastfeed and would simply be told to put the baby on a bottle. However, if the mother was well educated, had researched this issue and still decided to breastfeed she might be taken to court and have her baby taken away.)
* Meeting with our research team at the University of Texas Medical Center, in Galveston to work on a study design to research HIV virus in breast milk and to identify funding sources.
* Having the AnotherLook abstract “HIV and Feeding Recommendations, Political Science” included on the CD-Rom of presentations at the 2008 International AIDS Conference.
* Becoming part of the Leadership Team of the United States Breastfeeding Committee when Marian Tompson, as the AnotherLook delegate, accepted the invitation to be vice-chair for the coming year.
* Doing PowerPoint presentations on this issue for health professionals at La Leche League Conferences in the United States and Ireland.
* Responding to requests for information from parents, students, researchers and health care professionals.
* Updating the AnotherLook library of research on breastfeeding and HIV/AIDS.
* Working on a paper with a physician on the flaws of HIV testing in low risk populations.
* Looking forward to updating theAnotherLook website with frequently asked questions about breastfeeding and HIV, making the website more interactive with a team that is ready to implement this task.

This important work is only possible because of the financial support of many friends. After attending a past AnotherLook presentation a key person at UNICEF said that AnotherLook should be present at every discussion of infant feeding when a mother is HIV positive because we presented elements of the issue that were very often overlooked.

We can see we are making a difference as researchers begin to question infant feeding strategies that are based solely on the possibility of virus transmission instead of on maximizing the probabilities for good maternal/infant health.

You can help continue this work by making a donation, tax deductible in the United States, to:


P.O. Box 383

Evanston, IL 60204-0383

We appreciate your interest and send our best wishes for Happy Holidays!

Marian Tompson

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