WASHINGTON, United States, Tuesday December 1, 2015 – As World AIDS Day is observed today, the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) released a report stating that 17 countries in the Americas, most of them Caribbean islands, have provided data showing they may have eliminated mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis.
According to the report, ‘Elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and Syphilis in the Americas, Update 2015’, which presents data from 52 countries, the 17 territories reporting the progress were: Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Bermuda, Canada, Cayman Islands, Chile, Cuba, Dominica, Montserrat, Puerto Rico, Saba, St Kitts and Nevis, Turks and Caicos Islands, United States, and the US and British Virgin Islands. The reported dual elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis accounts for 34 per cent of all births in the region.
“The countries of the Americas have made tremendous efforts to reduce mother-to-child transmission of HIV, cutting new infections by half since 2010,” noted Dr. Carissa F. Etienne, Director of PAHO/WHO, adding, “We can do more to protect mothers and children to achieve a generation free of AIDS.”
In 2014, 96 per cent of pregnant women in Latin America and the Caribbean had at least one prenatal checkup, 75 per cent were tested for HIV, and 81 per cent of those needing treatment received it. These figures have increased by two, 21 and 45 per cent, respectively, since 2010 when PAHO/WHO and UNICEF implemented the Regional Initiative for the Elimination of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV and Congenital Syphilis in Latin America and the Caribbean to support countries with the elimination of these diseases.
If left untreated, women living with HIV have a 15–45 per cent chance of transmitting the virus to their babies during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding. If they receive treatment and have access to the recommended series of interventions during the stages in which the infection can occur, that risk falls to less than two per cent.
With regard to syphilis, screening of pregnant women in Latin America and the Caribbean has remained stable at around 80 per cent since 2010, while the percentage of women treated ranged from 50 per cent to 100 per cent in the countries that supplied data. In 2014, 17,400 cases of congenital syphilis were reported in the 32 countries of the Americas that provided data to PAHO/WHO.
Mother-to-child transmission of HIV is considered eliminated as a public health problem when a maximum of 2 in 100 children born to mothers with HIV contract the virus. Congenital syphilis is considered eliminated when no more than 5 of every 10,000 infants are born with the disease.
This year, Cuba became the first country in the world to receive official WHO validation that it has eliminated mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis. An additional 16 countries are in a position to request validation.