Monday, December 7, 2015

Burned at the Stake: HIV & Breastfeeding Policy in the USA

"Modern Medicine can't survive without our faith, because Modern Medicine is neither an art nor a science.  It's a religion." Dr. Robert Mendelson, "Confessions of a Medical Heretic"

Is medicine science or science fiction? I certainly don't view it as art.  Medicine appears to me to be a war against the human body.  We have our wars, the war against cancer.  And we haven't won that war.  War against drugs, but that war is only against people who take street drugs not prescribed drugs.  Violence is part of our social system.    Violence is a part of our medicine.  The cure often worse than the disease.  Kinda like the cure for witchcraft back in the 1500's, torture, burning at the stake, prolonged agony and eventually death. Our medicines either cure you or maim and kill ya.  In the future will people look back at this time in human medical history and shake their heads in disbelief?

I started questioning in 1999 policies regarding hiv and breastfeeding.  And the more studies I read on hiv and breastfeeding, the more I found the science questionable.  In 1985 the CDC recommended that hiv positive mothers avoid breastfeeding.  This recommendation has morphed into no breastfeeding in the USA for hiv-positive mothers. The cited evidence by the CDC and subsequent studies is to Ziegler et al, Postnatal transmission of AIDS-associated retrovirus from mother to infant. Lancet. 1985;i:896-898.  Ziegler et al was "a" case study in which a healthy mother was transfused due to blood loss during delivery of her 3rd child.  One unit of that blood was from a male who developed AIDS 13 months later.  The transfusion was after delivery and therefore it was presumed that transmission occurred through breastfeeding.  The mother breastfed for 6 weeks only and baby at 3 months showed "antibodies to AIDS virus."  Mother developed lymphadenopathy (enlarged lymph nodes).  Blood transfusions can cause lymphadenopathy but also  is considered an early symptom of hiv "infection."  Testing of infants for hiv is through PCR testing (HIV-1 DNA) because it is considered more reliable than ELISA or Western Blot. PCR was invented in 1983 by Karl Mullis (who won a Nobel prize in chemistry for this invention).  But it wasn't until 1986 that the Cetus company (John Sninsky inventor/scientist) announced that they had a test for hiv and publication of this invention was not until 1987.  Since PCR diagnosis was not invented when this case study was reported, then one most suppose that some kind of antibody test was done on this infant.  And we know that antibody tests like the ELISA and Western Blot are not considered reliable in infants because infants carry maternal antibodies for up to 18 months or longer.  The Ziegler case study shows what exactly?  Transmission by blood transfusion to the mother.   Transfusions are known to cause immune suppression that may last as long as years.  Was the mother infected with the AIDS virus through the blood transfusions she had or was her immune system suppressed and her lymphadenopathy caused by the blood transfusions she needed after her c-section?  We know that hiv antibody tests can have false positives (over 60 known medical reasons for a false positive reading-one of those medical reasons is blood transfusions).

Later studies that supposedly showed that hiv was transmitted through breastfeeding, were studies that did not define breastfeeding and most women were doing mixed feeding.  Some researchers of these studies were funded by the infant formula industry.  How does mixed feeding prove that transmission was through breastfeeding? How do we prove transmission, when infants carry their mother's antibodies up to and beyond 18 months of age.  Thus infants of hiv positive mothers could test positive for hiv for a year and a half and then naturally lose those antibodies.  Strange how antibodies to a disease used to mean that someone was protected from a disease.  But nowadays if you have antibodies to hiv, that means you are infected.  Breastfeeding is all about the production of antibodies to protect infants from bacterium, viruses, parasites and fungi.  So finding antibodies to hiv is infection or protection?  Science has been turned upside-down.  If having antibodies to a disease is protection then formula-fed infants lack the antibodies to protect them from hiv/aids. There is a saying that breastfeeding is nature's vaccine.  Why does hiv antibodies, unlike other diseases, prove infection, particularly when the person with the antibodies is not sick?  These questions have continued to bother me over the years.  We have a disease that does not follow the normal rules of an infectious disease.  In fact the spread of this disease does not follow epidemiological views of how infections spread through a population.  This is a disease that is concentrated in the gay community and African American communities in the US--mostly concentrated in males (90%) not females. And in Africa it appears in both males and females equally.  An infectious disease that changes its character from one continent to another? Does measles or chicken pox act like this?  I know it's a retrovirus.  Yet there is controversy over this particular retrovirus, since retroviruses don't usually infect people with disease.   

Karl Mullis, inventor of PCR, questioning the statements that hiv causes aids. 

Much to consider and wonder about regarding hiv/aids.  And a lot of confusing statements made by governmental officials and expertsHiv and breastfeeding has what I consider the most confusing of policiesIt has been for years a two-pronged policy.  If you live in the developed countries you are actively discouraged from breastfeeding.  If you live in a developing country you are encouraged to exclusively breastfeed.  There is no real choice for hiv positive mothers, when dealing with health authorities.  What we get from this two-pronged policy is some mothers in developed nations who wish to breastfeed because of its health benefits and some mothers in developing nations who wish to use infant formula because of its supposedly safety against transmitting the virus.  When you have a two-pronged policy dependent on wealth, then some mothers wonder about the discriminatory nature of that policy based on wealth.  The WHO organization in 2010 changed its policy on hiv and breastfeeding encouraging all mothers in all countries to exclusively breastfeed in combination with antiretroviral medication.

This WHO policy change is dependent upon each individual nation.  In the US, policy on breastfeeding and hiv has not changed.  Meaning if you are diagnosed as hiv positive, the CDC still does not recommend breastfeeding.  (last updated June 2015) 

The American Academy of Pediatrics policy statement in 2013 states the following, "Because the only intervention to completely prevent HIV transmission via human milk is not to breastfeed, in the United States, where clean water and affordable replacement feeding are available the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that HIV-infected mothers not breastfeed their infants, regardless of maternal viral load and antiretroviral therapy." 
This appears to be a version of AFASS international policy that has been replaced, that if formula is acceptible, feasible, affordable, sustainable and safe, then hiv positive mothers should use infant formula. I would debate the belief by the AAP that there is consistent access to clean water everywhere in the US.  Those living in poverty may rely on wells which are often contaminated.  And there are newspaper articles of chemical spills and contamination in rivers that impact numerous communities water supplies.  I would also debate the affordability of infant formula, a product that is one of the most stolen food items around the world.  Infant formula is not environmentally sustainable and its safety could be debated.

In the state of Texas, the Department of Family and Protective Services under child safety issues, 4432 Mother with AIDS or HIV Is Breastfeeding states, "If a mother with AIDS or HIV is breastfeeding, the intake specialist completes a P1(Priority 1) intake with an allegation of neglectful supervision (NSUP)."

Thus a mother who is diagnosed with hiv or aids and breastfeeds in Texas will have Child Protective Services (CPS) at her door.  I imagine that breastfeeding with a hiv diagnosis in the USA would trigger a CPS visit in most US states.  International policy on hiv and breastfeeding does not supercede national policy.  Is this a fair and just policy?  Not to my way of thinking.  US moms diagnosed with hiv need to understand what they are up against. One should never take a CPS visit lightly. IBCLCs and CLCs, LLL leaders and WIC Peer Counselors in the USA who work with moms need to be aware of this issue and although internationally women are being encouraged to exclusively breastfeed while taking antiretroviral meds, this is not the case in the USA.

I would like to close this blog post with a link to, "An Open Letter from Cheryl Nagel" in Celia Farber's website, The Truth Barrier.  Cheryl Nagel is the mother of Lindsey Nagel, a beautiful young woman who was adopted as an infant by Cheryl and Steve Nagel in 1990 from Romania.  She was diagnosed as hiv positive in the USA as an infant and put on AZT and various other drugs.  Her parents took her off the meds as a young child because of their belief that the meds were making her very sick. (AZT is chemo, a poison and makes most people very sick, and why some people have difficulty with complying with the drug regimen) She survived and thrived into adulthood.  She had a baby in December 2012, and the nightmare began for her and her family. 

There are many questions regarding hiv and breastfeeding.  Why has immunology in which antibodies mean protection been turned upside-down by AIDS establishment science?  Who wins financially, when we believe this?  Our fear of infectious disease appears to win out over rational thought and discourse.  There is a need to investigate the hiv and breastfeeding studies and review whether these studies are more about the wishes of the drug and infant formula industries.  Fear can create health care policies that are just plain wrong.
Copyright 2015 Valerie W. McClain