July 16, 2003
Giving infants a daily dose of antiretroviral therapy from birth through the entire breastfeeding period could significantly lower infants' risk of contracting HIV through breastmilk from their HIV-positive mothers, according to a study presented yesterday at the International AIDS Society's 2nd Conference on HIV Pathogenesis and Treatment, the AP/Boston Globe reports (Ross, AP/Boston Globe, 7/16). Researchers participating in the study, known as SIMBA -- "Stopping Infection from Mother to Child via Breastfeeding in Africa" -- administered a short course of GlaxoSmithKline's Retrovir and Bristol-Myers Squibb's Videx to pregnant women and counseled them on how to breastfeed. Researchers then administered GSK's Epivir or Boehringer Ingelheim's Viramune to the women's infants for up to six months after birth (Sithole, Reuters, 7/15). Researchers administered the drugs in syrup form to 397 infants in Rwanda and Uganda. They found that only 1% of the infants receiving the drugs contracted HIV through breastmilk, compared with 15% of the infants who did not receive treatment (AP/Boston Globe, 7/16). The researchers concluded, "The combination of antiretroviral prophylaxis and counseling on breastfeeding practices in infants receiving breastfeeding from HIV-1-infected mothers is extremely effective in preventing mother-to-infant transmission." Joep Lange, IAS president and lead researcher of the study, said, "It would be best to start providing universal access to treatment for people in developing countries, but in the absence of that, this intervention should be recommended immediately" (Reuters, 7/15).
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