Babies born to HIV positive mothers are significantly healthier when they are exclusively breastfed after birth for at least six months, whether they contract HIV from their mothers or not. It is currently an international nutrition guideline that in countries and homes where access to clean, safe water and quality nutrition cannot be guaranteed, that breastfeeding is best. Studies show that the risk of a baby dying from diarrhea, pneumonia, and other illnesses is higher than contracting HIV from their infected mother.
In 2009, the ANISA Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV/AIDS (PMTCT) team in South Sudan started advocating Exclusive Breastfeeding (EBF) to mothers. Initially the mothers resisted the concept of exclusively breastfeeding their infants because the local, cultural thought was that breast milk would not provide enough nutrition. However, the ANISA PMTCT team continued promoting EBF regardless of HIV status in the community by counseling all pregnant women coming for Antenatal Care on infant feeding. They also promoted the campaign through the Traditional Birth Attendants, the Mother to Mother network, and with a variety of media awareness campaigns.
The campaign produced mesmerizing results. During years 1-3, a total of 445 infants were exclusively breastfed for six months. Not only has the percentage of women implementing EBF substantially increased, but the impact on the babies undergoing EBF was remarkable. The mothers bring their healthy babies to the clinic to testify how great EBF is, and vow to continue spreading the ‘good news’ to other mothers in the community.
About ANISA: CMMB's ANISA project was launched in October 2009. ANISA means “together” in Zande, the local language of South Sudan- a fitting name for CMMB’s community-based HIV initiative in the newly independent nation. ANISA aims to strengthen local capacity to reduce the incidence of new HIV infections through primary and secondary prevention, and improving care and support to People Living With HIV/AIDS. CMMB serves as the prime of the project, with implementation assistance from WorldVision.