AIDS transmission to babies was blocked in 99 percent of cases when breast-feeding mothers infected with HIV took triple-drug combinations, according to a Harvard University study.

Virus transmission fell to 1.1 percent when mothers were assigned to one of three combination regimens initiated before birth and continued through six months of pregnancy, according to the study conducted in Botswana and published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine. Without the drugs, the infection rate would be at least 25 percent, the study's authors reported.

About 430,000 children worldwide are infected with HIV each year, and more than 90 percent of such infections occur in sub-Saharan Africa, where breast-feeding is especially important for infant survival, according to a separate editorial in the journal.

"Until now, HIV-infected mothers in Africa were faced with a choice between breast-feeding and a high risk of infecting their children with HIV or using formula and risking high infant morbidity and mortality," said Max Essex, senior author of the study and chair of the AIDS Initiative at the Harvard School of Public Health.

The research was conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health and the government of Botswana.

Bloomberg News

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