Access to formula milk for all mothers living with HIV

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Thursday 7th December 2017

Breastfeeding is an identified issue of vertical transmission of HIV. Whilst the rates of vertical transmission in the UK are at an all-time low, the provision of formula milk for mothers living with HIV is not routinely available across Scotland.

The provision of formula milk is recognised by the British HIV Association’s Standards of Care as part of the full range of interventions that should be available for mothers living with HIV to reduce the risk of onward HIV transmission.

At present, only two schemes are funded in Scotland one by NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde, and the other by NHS Lothian. Following reports that some mothers weren’t able to access formula milk, HIV Scotland wrote to the Scottish Government identifying the clear cost benefits for ensuring a Scotland-wide policy on access to formula milk. The current estimated cost to the NHS of an infant contracting HIV would be approximately £622,800, whilst the average cost of providing formula milk and feeding equipment to a mother living with HIV for 12 months is approximately £450.

In a briefing produced by the National AIDS Trust (NAT) they noted that if free formula milk and feeding equipment was providing to all mothers living with HIV of the estimated 1,300 new born babies, it would still cost less than on infant contracting HIV.

We are pleased that the Scottish Government have listened to our call, and announced their intention to hold a review that will be led by Prof David Goldberg from Health Protection Scotland in Spring 2018. This review will ensure that there is a Scotland-wide policy regarding the provision of formula milk, based on the most up-to-date international evidence. HIV Scotland will work to ensure that all new mothers living with HIV, regardless of their postcode, can access this as part of their prevention toolkit.