Psychosocial Experiences of HIV-Positive Women of African Descent in the Cultural Context of Infant Feeding: A Three-Country Comparative Analyses


Infant feeding among mothers of African descent living with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a critical practice that is influenced by policies, cultural expectations, and the resultant psychosocial state of the mother. Hence, this paper draws insights from a broader infant feeding study. It provides insights into how guidelines on infant feeding practices, cultural expectations, migration, or geographic status intersect to influence the psychosocial experiences of mothers living with HIV. We compared psychosocial experiences of Black mothers of African descent living with HIV in Nigeria versus those in high-income countries (Canada and USA), in the context of contrasting national infant feeding guidelines, cultural beliefs about breastfeeding, and geographic locations. Survey was conducted in venue-based convenience samples in two comparative groups: (Ottawa, Canada and Miami-FL, USA combined [n = 290]), and (Port Harcourt, Nigeria [n = 400]). Using independent samples t-statistics, we compared the means and distributions of six psychosocial attributes between Black mothers in two distinct: Infant feeding groups (IFGs), cultural, and geographical contexts at p < 0.05. Psychosocial attributes, such as discrimination and stigma, were greater in women who exclusively formula feed (EFF) than in women who exclusively breastfeed (EBF) at p < 0.01. Heightened vigilance, discrimination, and stigma scores were greater in women whose infant feeding practices were informed by cultural beliefs (CBs) compared to those not informed by CBs at p < 0.001. Discrimination and stigma scores were greater among mothers in Canada and the USA than in Nigeria at p < 0.001. Heightened vigilance and perceived stress scores were less among women in Canada and the USA than in Nigeria at p < 0.001. The guidelines on infant feeding practices for mothers with HIV should consider cultural expectations and migration/locational status of mothers.

Keywords: black mothers; infant feeding guidelines; breast feeding; sociocultural factors; women living with HIV; mother-to-child transmission; psychosocial influences