New breastfeeding guidelines for HIV-positive birthing parents cause confusion on social media

The American Academy of Pediatrics issued new guidelines stating that HIV-positive birthing parents can safely breastfeed if they are undergoing antiretroviral treatment and their viral load is undetectable. In response to news articles about these guidelines, some social media users claimed that breastfeeding as an HIV-positive birthing parent is “not worth the risk,” even if the birthing parent’s viral load is undetectable. Others expressed confusion about how HIV spreads.

Recommendation: Trending conversations about this topic provide an opportunity for health agencies, community-based organizations, and other partners to inform target populations about these new guidelines. Explaining that the risk of HIV transmission through breastfeeding is “estimated to be less than 1 percent” if the HIV-positive birthing parent is taking antiretroviral medications and has an undetectable viral load is recommended. These conversations also provide an opportunity to push out existing messaging about how HIV spreads, where to get tested for HIV, how to treat HIV, and how to protect against HIV.