By Jill Moss

This is a the VOA Special English DEVELOPMENT REPORT.

Some scientists believe that a mother with the disease AIDS whobreastfeeds her baby increases the baby's chance of getting the disease. However, a new report has found that women infected with the AIDS virus put their babies in greater danger by not breastfeeding them.

Michael Latham is a professor of international nutrition at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. He and another expert went to Africa last year to examine AIDS programs and policies. The two scientists spoke with government and non-government officials in Kenya, Uganda, Namibia and Botswana. They discovered an unnecessary fear that breastfeeding causes higher cases of the H-I-V AIDS virus among babies. Instead, Mr. Latham says only three to six percent of babies are likely to become infected if they receive breast milk from an infected mother.

Peter Lamptey leads AIDS prevention programs for an international public health organization in North Carolina. He says another study has results similar to Mr. Latham's report. The study was done in South Africa in Nineteen-Ninety-Nine among mothers with H-I-V and their babies. The researches discovered that a baby's chances of getting H-I-V depends on what the baby is fed.

The study found that only eight percent of babies given only breast milk in their first three months of life became infected with the AIDS virus. Thirteen percent of babies given only processed milk for babies, or formula, became infected. But twenty percent of babies who were given both formula and breast milk became infected with H-I-V.

Doctors call this last method "mixed feeding." They say it may cause AIDS to be spread quickly from mother to baby for two reasons. First, formula may damage the walls of the baby's intestine. Second, the breast milk of a mother with H-I-V can cause her baby's intestine to become even more infected.

Instead of "mixed feeding," doctors say breast milk is the best way to protect against the AIDS virus. Even if the mother is infected, her body develops antibodies against the disease that are passed on to her baby.

Experts say more studies are needed. However, Mr. Latham hopes his research will teach mothers with AIDS that breastfeeding is a safe and helpful process.

This VOA Special English DEVELOPMENT REPORT was written by Jill Moss.

Voice of America Special English