Master of Arts News


News and events from UI&U's MA students, faculty, and alums.

Kristin Casas, M.A. 2012

According to Kristin Casas’s research, over 400,000 children worldwide in 2007 acquired HIV from their mothers during the pregnancy process or through breastfeeding. Casas’s thesis explored the complex issues involved in determining whether an HIV-infected mother should breastfeed or use formula. In resource-rich countries where formula is safe and readily available it is an easy choice. However, in resource-poor areas, the choice is complicated by the high infant mortality rates for those who do not breastfeed. Casas also found that the highest transmission of HIV occurred in infants who received both breast milk and formula. (The intermittent use of formula inflames the baby’s gut, increasing the likelihood of contracting HIV.) For mothers who choose to breastfeed, there is highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) to reduce the chances of the mother transmitting HIV to her nursing baby. By preserving breastfeeding in low-income contexts with the aid of HAART treatment, infants may be able to live longer, healthier, HIV-free lives compared to their formula-fed counterparts. The choice of an HIV-infected mother of whether to breastfeed or bottle-feed a baby is very convoluted. Casas explains, “Although I set out to discover what the safest feeding method would be for an infant born to an HIV-infected mother, the results from studies revealed that it differs for each individual.”

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