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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
SOUTH AFRICA: South African Children Infected with HIV in

September 19, 2007
Agence France Presse (09.17.07) - Wednesday, September 19,

South African medical experts and activists on Monday warned that poor infection controls in public hospitals have caused dozens of babies to become infected with HIV. Treatment Action Campaign spokesperson Mark Heywood said he was aware of more than 40 such infections. "The overall lack of inspection control policies, procedures, and budget means that the problem is probably more widespread," he said.

Shaheen Mehtar, head of infection prevention and control at Cape Town's Tygerberg Academic Hospital, said she personally knows of 24 infections in newborns. "These are all babies whose biological mothers were HIV-negative and who spent some time in hospital," she said.

According to a report in the Cape Times daily newspaper, doctors blame the infections on HIV-tainted expressed breast milk being given to hospitalized babies, the re-use of syringes, and poor sterilization.

Health ministry spokesperson Sibani Mngadi said infection control is a priority in state hospitals, which are required to comply with national guidelines. "Expressed breast milk should only be used to feed a baby of the mother who supplied the milk. Pooled expressed breast milk should not be used because of the risk of transmitting infection," said Mngadi, noting that the ministry has requested a detailed report on specific cases of accidental infection.

Mehtar said she and her colleagues are working with the government to improve infection control by training practitioners, upgrading sterilization methods, and ensuring that all extracted breast milk is pasteurized and labeled with the name of the mother who provided it.