When law and science part ways: the criminalization of breastfeeding by women living with HIV


Stigma and discrimination are a constant reality for the 37.7 million people living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) around the globe. Fear over vertical transmission has fuelled HIV criminalization: laws that target people living with HIV for acts deemed to be a transmission risk. Research has now shown that many of these behaviours, including breastfeeding, pose an extremely low risk of transmission when people have proper medical care, access to treatment and open relationships with medical professionals. Yet, we are witnessing a wave of criminal cases against women living with HIV for breastfeeding, an act which is actively promoted worldwide as the best infant feeding strategy. In this review, we will place the criminalization of breastfeeding within the context of current medical recommendations and cultural views of breastfeeding. We will highlight the criminal cases against women living with HIV for breastfeeding around the globe and the criteria for justifiable criminalization. Finally, we will provide recommendations for moving towards decriminalization, removing this barrier to HIV prevention, treatment and care.


Symington A, Chingore-Munazvo N, Moroz S




  • Epidemiology and Determinants of Health
    • Determinants of Health
  • Determinants of Health
    • Stigma/discrimination
  • Population(s)
    • Women
    • General HIV+ population
  • Prevention, Engagement and Care Cascade
    • Prevention
  • Prevention
    • Biomedical interventions


Abstract/Full paper

Email 1 selected articles

Email 1 selected articles

Error! The email wasn't sent. Please try again.

Your email has been sent!