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Feeding abilities of HIV-exposed uninfected neonates in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa: a decscriptive exploratory study.

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Background: HIV-exposed uninfected (HEU) children born to HIV-positive mothers have poorer developmental and health outcomes than their HIV-unexposed peers. Feeding ability is a critical component when considering the health of HEU neonates. The aim of the study was to describe the feeding abilities of HEU neonates born to HIV-positive mothers accessing health care at a public sector hospital in KwaZulu-Natal. Methods: A descriptive exploratory study was conducted with 10 HIV-positive mothers and their neonates. A screening tool was utilised to evaluate the HEU neonates’ feeding abilities. Information regarding mothers’ health during pregnancy was gathered retrospectively from hospital medical records. All data were entered into SPSS and analysed using descriptive statistics. Results: All 10 HIV-exposed neonates were confirmed to be HIV uninfected by HIV PCR tests. Four out of the 10 neonates failed the screening tool and presented with feeding difficulties such as prolonged feeding time (n = 1), reduced feeding time (n = 2), swallow-breathe discoordination (n = 2), weak sucking (n = 1), insufficient oral intake (n = 1), inappropriate state of arousal for feeding (n = 1), inspiratory stridor (n = 1), signs of distress (n = 1), and regurgitation (n = 1). Mothers’ CD4 counts ranged from 205 to 820 cells/mm3(μl). Five neonates were exposed to ARVs in-utero from 24 weeks gestational age. Three of these neonates failed the screening tool. Seven of the 10 mothers experienced health concerns during pregnancy, including pregnancy related anaemia (n = 3), preterm labour without delivery (n = 2), vaginal warts (n = 2), vaginal ulcers (n = 1), asthma (n = 1), and epilepsy (n = 1). Conclusions and recommendations: The findings of the study show that HEU neonates are at risk for feeding difficulties. Health care professionals should regard this population as at-risk. In order to facilitate early identification and intervention and to prevent adverse health sequelae, appropriate screening and follow up measures should be implemented. Keywords: HIV/AIDS, Feeding, Neonates, HIV-exposed uninfected


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.