We surveyed infant feeding knowledge, attitudes, and practices in Zimbabwe to determine whether knowledge of HIV seropositivity influences infant feeding behavior. Questionnaires were administered to 97 women 1 and 4 weeks postpartum and prospective data on infant feeding practices were collected. Participants were pregnant women who consented to a HIV test. A total of 116 women participated of whom 99 women underwent voluntary HIV counseling and testing (VCT); 17 women agreed to blinded HIV testing but did not opt for VCT. The responses to questionnaires on infant feeding practices of HIV-positive and HIV-negative women who knew and did not know their HIV status at day 1 and week 4 postpartum were compared. We found that HIV-positive women who did not learn their status breastfed their infants less, introduced supplementary foods sooner, and planned to wean their babies earlier compared to other women (p = 0.005, p = NS, p = 0.02). HIV-positive women (30/97) more frequently reported a prior history of infant death and AIDS-related symptoms compared to HIV-negative women. We conclude that HIV-positive women who did not know their status made incorrect decisions with respect to infant feeding. These women may have suspected themselves to be HIV-positive and consequently underfed their infants or because these women were more symptomatic may have been less likely to breastfeed; decreased intake may increase the risk for malnutrition. Knowledge of HIV status may influence infant feeding decisions and reveal an urgent need to address infant feeding practices of pregnant women in Zimbabwe.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
- Infectious Diseases