HIV transmission risk via breastfeeding is greatly reduced by antiretroviral therapy but is not zero. Current UK guidelines recommend exclusive formula feeding; however, women can breastfeed if they meet certain criteria. We examine the narrative accounts of mothers with HIV (pregnant or recently given birth) who navigated divergent cultural and national policy norms regarding infant feeding. Mothers with HIV, the majority of whom in the UK are of Black African ethnicity, face a complex decision regarding infant feeding, which has implications for their sense of identity, belonging and citizenship. While the UK has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates globally, breastfeeding is normalised across African and Asian cultures. However, HIV remains stigmatised and formula feeding could signal one's HIV-positive status. Our participants made difficult trade-offs to mitigate the variety of threats they faced, and both feeding options (breast or formula) felt transgressive, with immense hazards involved for these intersectionally-disadvantaged women.
Women's Studies International Forum