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If the Garmastan ad (discussed here) is the most anti-breastfeeding advertisement, then perhaps this one comes a close second. This ad, by German campaign group 'Michael Stich Stiftung', has honourable intentions – to reduce the spread of HIV in babies - but its execution is morally and factually questionable. The text reads:
Diagnosis: Mother's milk can kill a baby.
Note: Yearly 1,700 HIV infected babies die daily world-wide.
Treatment: Get informed. Finding out can protect against infection.
Firstly, the statistic of 1,700 babies is the rate of HIV transmission as a whole, not – as the ad would suggest – through breastfeeding alone. Secondly, using the term “world-wide” is misleading. In developing countries (where the bulk of HIV resides) exclusive breastfeeding can significantly reduce the risk of mother-to-child HIV transmission (World Health Organisation; Unicef; BBC). This is because breastfeeding carries a low transmission risk, yet protects against potentially fatal conditions such as diarrhoea and pneumonia. More importantly UNICEF say:
"Some immunological studies are finding that there are factors in human milk, especially the milk of the HIV-infected mother, that will directly combat the cells that contribute to the transmission of the HIV infection. A study done in Durban, South Africa showed that exclusive breastfeeding during the first 3 months of life resulted in a lower risk of MTCT than mixed feeding (breastfeeding combined with other feeds, juices or water)".
In fact this year South Africa's nine provinces will begin phasing out provision of free formula to HIV-positive mothers and implement a new policy on breastfeeding (see here). Even in developed countries such as the UK and US “after seeking expert professional advice on reducing the risk of transmission of HIV through breastfeeding, a highly informed and motivated mother might be assisted to breastfeed” (UK Department of Health).
On a positive note (and I’m scraping barrels here), the ad seems to counteract the common unfortunate myth that breastfeeding causes aesthetically displeasing breasts.