"); NewWindow.document.close(); return false; }

IRIN PlusNews HIV/AIDS News and information service | Southern Africa | SOUTH AFRICA: Breast milk bank provides hope for HIV+ babies | Children | News Items
Sunday 18 December 2005
Home About PlusNews Country Profiles News Briefs Special Reports Subscribe Archive IRINnews


East Africa
Great Lakes
Horn of Africa
Southern Africa
West Africa
RSS - News Briefs


PlusNews E-mail Subscription

SOUTH AFRICA: Breast milk bank provides hope for HIV+ babies

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

©  iThemba Lethu

Baby "TN" receives expressed breast milk at iThemba Lethu transitional home

JOHANNESBURG, 28 October (PLUSNEWS) - Orphaned babies, many of whom are HIV-positive, are getting more than basic love and shelter at a home in South Africa's port city of Durban. They are also receiving the gift of immune-boosting breast milk donated by a network of mothers in the city.

The mothers voluntarily express the milk their own babies do not need, and it is then collected and taken to iThembaLethu, meaning "I have a destiny" in isiZulu, a transitional home for babies who have been orphaned or abandoned through HIV/AIDS. Not all have the HI virus, but most are very neglected and malnourished when they arrive.

Coordinator Shirley Royal told PlusNews on Tuesday that the home, which cares for six babies at a time, combines a family environment, stimulation and good nutrition to help them recover while plans are made for them to be reunited with their family, or placed with another family.

Aware of research demonstrating that breast milk boosts a baby's immune levels, the founder of the breast milk bank, paediatrics professor Dr Anna Coutsoudis, asked four friends, one of whom was Royal, to donate excess breast milk for an ailing baby that the home had just taken in.

"It was an incredible thing to be part of," said Royal. "The baby went from being very malnourished to thriving."

As the HI virus can be passed through breast milk, and more babies started coming into the home, they conducted research on techniques used by overseas breast milk banks and looked to local blood banks for guidance on screening prospective donors.

They were given an industrial pasteuriser, which enabled them to eliminate the HI virus and other viruses like hepatitis and syphilis, as well as donations of breast pumps and small plastic containers for the milk.

Royal says that while pasteurisation - a heat treatment - removes many of the good qualities of breast milk, the milk is still beneficial and "better than no breast milk".

With funding from the UN Children's Fund to cover some costs, the home relies on good will and word of mouth, said Royal. Donors to the breast milk bank are not paid.

The bank does not always have adequate supplies - four donor mothers are needed to supply one baby, so HIV positive babies have priority.

"We go to moms' groups and chat to them about the project. We screen prospective donors with a questionnaire [covering health and lifestyle] and then teach them how to store the milk. Because breast milk matures with a baby, we try to match milk from a mother with a two-month old baby, with a baby of the same age at the home. It's not always possible, but the breast milk they get is better than none at all," she said.

For more information on iThembaLethu: www.ithembalethu.org.za


Recent SOUTH AFRICA Reports
National survey finds young women most at risk of HIV/AIDS,  1/Dec/05
AIDS activists take government to court again,  29/Nov/05
Poor governance blamed for US $10 million unspent in HIV/AIDS budget,  1/Nov/05
NAPWA partners with controversial Rath Foundation,  20/Oct/05
Trials test efficacy of diaphragms in preventing HIV/AIDS,  26/Sep/05
Le portail d'informations générales de la Côte d’Ivoire
The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria
Youth against AIDS
Making a Difference for Children Affected by AIDS

PlusNews does not take responsibility for info in links supplied.

[Back] [Home Page]

Click here to send any feedback, comments or questions you have about PlusNews Website or if you prefer you can send an Email to Webmaster

Copyright © IRIN 2005
The material contained on www.PlusNews.org comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian news and information service, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies.
All PlusNews material may be reposted or reprinted free-of-charge; refer to the IRIN copyright page for conditions of use. IRIN is a project of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.