About The Milky Moovement +
Imagine if you will, being a woman living with HIV. Now, imagine, doing everything in your power to stay healthy and undetectable, both for your own health and because it’s just plain the right thing to do. So here you are, walking through life, just doing the best that you can, and you learn that you are expecting a child. Not only that, but you want this child. You love this child. You haven’t even met this tiny human being, and already, every single cell of your entire person feels nothing as strongly as your connection to the life you are growing inside of your own body! Then BOOM! You are hit with the jarring reminder that you are living with HIV, and your mind is riddled with a million questions and doubts and fears and worst-case scenarios. What would that look like?
For Heather O’Connor, it looked like being undetectable since 2016. It looked like being proposed to by her partner on the day she learned of her HIV+ status. It looked like facing her diagnosis head-on and working unrelentingly to become informed, healthy, and well. And then it looked like giving birth to, and breastfeeding two beautiful, thriving, HIV-negative, bouncing bundles of joy! This did not come without its challenges, but in that lived experience Heather realized that this was not just herstory, and that countless mothers and birthing parents living with HIV were probably facing similar and likely more challenging adversities as they simply endeavored to care for their babies in the best way that are able.
It was with this in mind that The Milky Moovement+ “brain-child” was born! Heather, who was affiliated with the Well Project connected with International Community of Women Living with HIV – North America (ICWNA), where she is now the Communications Specialist, and both agencies decided to formally partner around the issue! Heather has since been leading the charge! As these efforts gain momentum and traction, The Milky Moovement+ has identified three major goals:
- To work internally gathering information, resources, medical buy-in, and scientific data for wide-dissemination of up-to-date and internationally adopted guidance.
- To create a safe and inclusive space for women and birthing parents to gather, connect with resources, and request advocacy and support in their own birthing journeys.
- To push for policy changes that afford people the agency and autonomy to safely feed their children if they should so choose.
We realize that it is particularly important to “strike while the iron is hot.” At this time, we feel prepared as an agency and as individuals to ask the CDC to alter the antiquated guidelines that exist in contrast with other national and international guidelines around HIV and breastfeeding.
We have heard parents describe their children as their own hearts living outside their bodies, and like Heather, ICWNA wholeheartedly believes that women and birthing parents living with HIV, who are undetectable and medically complaint should be unilaterally supported by medical practitioners, policymakers, and advocates alike in making this choice.