The World Health Organization(WHO) has announced on Wednesday that Thailand and Belarus has eliminated mother-to-child transmission of both HIV and syphilis.
Thailand becomes the first in Asia to achieve this status; Cuba in 2015 became the first country to be validated for having successfully eliminated mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis following a WHO developed global criteria to validate the elimination of transmission of both infections.
WHO also congratulated Armenia and the Republic of Moldova for eliminating mother-to-child transmission of HIV, and syphilis, respectively.
“To ensure children are born healthy is to give them the best possible start in life. It is immensely encouraging to see countries succeed in eliminating mother-to-child transmission of these 2 infections,” said WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan. “This is a tremendous achievement – a clear signal that the world is on the way to an AIDS-free generation.”
Eliminating mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis is key to the global effort to combat sexually transmitted infections and to end AIDS by the year 2030.
WHO in recognition of the efforts of Thailand, Armenia, Belarus, and the Republic of Moldova, attributed their remarkable accomplishments to early access to prenatal care, HIV and syphilis testing for pregnant women and their partners, and treatment for women who test positive, as well as their babies; the provision of reproductive health information, the engagement of communities and outreach to marginalized populations, in a manner consistent with basic human rights and gender equality, has helped to facilitate such access.
“The achievements are testament to a key factor – the integration of maternal and child health with sexual, reproductive health and HIV services. Integration underpins WHO’s new health sector strategies on HIV, sexually transmitted infections, and viral hepatitis, and is fundamental to the attainment of universal health coverage and the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals” the UN health agency concluded.
Elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (EMTCT)
The transmission of HIV from an HIV-positive mother to her child during pregnancy, labour, delivery or breastfeeding is called vertical or mother-to-child transmission (MTCT). In the absence of any interventions during these stages, rates of HIV transmission from mother-to-child can be between 15-45%. MTCT can be nearly fully prevented if both the mother and the child are provided with ARV drugs throughout the stages when infection could occur.
WHO recommends options for prevention of MTCT (PMTCT), which includes providing ARVs to mothers and infants during pregnancy, labour and the post-natal period, and offering life-long treatment to HIV-positive pregnant women regardless of their CD4 count.
In 2014, 73% [68–79%] of the estimated 1.5 [1.3-1.6] million pregnant women living with HIV globally received effective antiretroviral drugs to avoid transmission to their children.
Kobby Blay is the chief health editor at Ghanahealthnest.com. A professional practicing nurse with specialty in mental health and focus for health communications, public health, medical/documentary photography, ICT and systems perspective for health improvement.