VIOLATION OF RIGHT TO BREAST-FEEDING
Presented before the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human
Rights of the Commission on Human Rights of the UN, by Michael Baumgartner. Agenda
Item 11, August 16th 2000.
Dear Ms Chairperson,
This is a joined statement by International Educational Development/
Humanitarian Law Project, International Forum for Accessible Science (IFAS), Joint
Action Council Kannur (JACK) India and Integrated Science for African Community
2000 (ISAC2000) Kenya and Mothering Magazine, USA.
IED/LP is deeply concerned that women considered to be "HIV positive" are being increasingly compelled to abandon breast-feeding their infants. Our organisation considers breast-feeding of infants highly preferable to formula feeding, especially in developing countries where the cost of artificial formula is prohibitive and where access to the necessary means to prepare artificial food is often impossible. Companies producing infant formula inappropriately benefit from and even manipulate the AIDS-crisis. Those pushing infant formula seek to overcome the WHO/UNICEF/UNESCO position on favouring breast-feeding and the International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes.
Worryingly, mothers living with the "HIV" stigma are not given a choice regarding breast-feeding. They are threatened that breast-feeding would kill their child. They are, however, not told about the negative effects on the health of the infants if not breast-fed and dangers of being exposed to artificial methods of infant feeding.
In the early 1990s, UNICEF, WHO, and UNESCO collaborated in preparing a small booklet, Facts for Life, to communicate the most important guidelines relating to child-care. The section on AIDS said:
* "A mother with the AIDS virus should continue to breastfeed her baby. There is a very small risk that the AIDS virus could be passed on to the baby by breastfeeding. But the risks of bottle-feeding a baby are known to be very much greater, especially in a poor community."
In May 1998, the relevant provisions of Facts for Life were updated as follows:
* "If a mother is infected with HIV/AIDS then there is a one in seven risk that breastfeeding may give the virus to her uninfected baby. If a mother with HIV/AIDS chooses to feed her infant with infant formula or other breastmilk substitutes there is a risk of her baby getting diarrhoea and other illnesses which could lead to malnutrition and death. The extent of this risk depends on local circumstances."
* "Mothers who are infected with HIV/AIDS should consider not breastfeeding only if they are sure of regular supplies of alternatives to breastmilk, as well as clean water, and sufficient time and fuel to boil water for every feed. Feeding cups, not bottles, should be used, even for newborn babies."
* "Mothers who have HIV/AIDS need to know the risks to their infant's health of both breastfeeding and not breastfeeding so they, and the infants' fathers, can make informed decisions about what is best for their baby in their own local and personal circumstances."
Outside the "HIV"/AIDS context, there are no conditions under which it has been shown that infants are better off with infant formula. The same conclusion applies to the "HIV"/AIDS context. There is as yet no clear published scientific evidence that infants of mothers who are considered to be "HIV"-positive would be better off if they were not breastfed. There has been a great deal of inference and surmise suggesting this conclusion, but until now there is no hard evidence to support it. The claim that properties said to be part of "HIV", the alleged virus suggested to cause AIDS can be transmitted via breast-milk should not determine the feeding decision.
Still, the "HIV"-establishment increasingly challenges breast-feeding in the context of AIDS. Supported by the artificial baby food industry, they ignore the following facts:
It has been well documented that the properties attributed to "HIV" can be caused by other conditions (including pregnancy). No test can detect "HIV" without proper prior isolation of the suggested cause of AIDS. This has astonishingly not been established up-to-date. This fact is even acknowledged by early AIDS-virus proponent Prof. Luc Montagnier.
Hence, all currently used falsely called "HIV-tests" are useless in determine infection with "HIV", the alleged virus suggested to cause AIDS. A fact even acknowledged by the test manufacturers.
Guidelines for infant feeding should be based on the human right to adequate nutrition, established in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and other international agreements. Application of the basic principles of nutrition rights in relation to HIV/AIDS implies that (1) parents have not only a need but also a right to be well informed, and (2) they have a right to good information not only about breastfeeding but also about a broad range of alternative feeding methods. The right of informed choice implies a right to encompassing and unbiased information.
Principles regarding the human rights of infants with regard to nutrition apply with equal effect in the context of "HIV"/AIDS; they are not to be suspended. This means, for example, that even "HIV"-positive mothers have a right to breastfeed. If any government were to prohibit "HIV"-positive mothers from breastfeeding, that would violate their human rights, and also violate their infants' human rights.
In June 1998 UNAIDS announced New Initiatives to Reduce HIV Transmission from Mother-to-Child in Low-Income Countries. Regarding feeding it states:
(...) WHO, UNICEF and the UNAIDS Secretariat will continue to protect, promote and support breastfeeding as the best feeding method for infants whose mothers are HIV-negative or do not know their HIV status. (...)
Given the fact that "HIV" has not been properly isolated and, hence, we cannot be sure of anybody really is "infected" with "HIV" the alleged virus suggested to cause AIDS. It follows - as recommended by many experts - ALL babies should be exclusively breast-fed at least for the first six month of their lives.
We ask the United Nations to proof that the underlying science on breast-feeding and AIDS holds scrutiny and we request measures to ensure emplacement of International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes is not violated in the context of AIDS.
A report used for this statement on the issue of Nutritional Rights in AIDS by Prof.
George Kent, Scientific Advisor of IFAS can be obtained at: http://www2.hawaii.edu/~kent/HIVNUTRTS.doc
For further information contact: IFAS, Elisabethenstrasse 51, PF 486, 3000 Bern 22,
Switzerland, Phone: +41 31 332 3531, Fax: +41 31 348 1636