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AFRO-NETS> Breastfeeding and HIV Transmission (3)

Breastfeeding and HIV Transmission (3)

Advertising for baby milk?

The AFRO-NETS item 'Breastfeeding and HIV Transmission' is relevant 
to discussions we have been having here at Africa Health journal.

Our readers cannot afford to subscribe to medical journals and so we 
send them 'AH' free and raise money by selling advertising space. The 
ads are for medical equipment, training courses and (more recently) 
for pharmaceuticals. We have always refused to take ads for baby 
milks, regarding their promotion in Africa as being unethical.

Have things changed? Given the HIV situation, would it now be ethical 
for us to accept ads from Nestle, Wyeth etc.?

For the vast majority of African mothers, breastfeeding is still the 
best option. But, when a mother is known to be HIV positive, bottle-
feeding becomes an option worth considering, PROVIDING the mother can 
be adequately supported to bottle-feed correctly.

I think that all AFRO-NETS readers are aware that ensuring a mother 
has safe water etc. may well be impossible in many (perhaps most) Af-
rican communities.

Nevertheless, it could be argued that baby milks are now in the same 
category as the equipment and drugs advertised in our journal; these 
items are not appropriate for all patients but are an option for the 
doctor to consider in some cases.

On the other hand, would our taking baby milk ads result somehow in 
HIV negative mothers deciding to opt for bottle-feeding? (In theory 
this ought not to happen as AH goes to doctors not the general pub-
lic.) And would we be 'contaminating' ourselves by accepting ads (and 
thus money) from companies whose behaviour on ethical matters has 
consistently been criticised over the years?

We presently enjoy a high standing with aid agencies, academic insti-
tutions etc. and with our readers. Perhaps accepting baby milks ads 
would damage our own reputation; we might find it hard to persuade 
people to write articles for us - or even talk to us!

We are continuing our own internal ethical debate here and we have 
not yet decided whether to take baby milk ads. We shall also be ask-
ing our readers what they think; the resulting correspondence could 
prove very interesting. In the meantime, the views of AFRO-NETS read-
ers would be of interest to us!

Paul Chinnock
Editor, Africa Health

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