Wed | Aug 16, 2017

PAHO working to eliminate mother to child transmission of HIV, three other diseases

Published:Friday | August 11, 2017 | 8:44 AMLynford Simpson

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) is moving to eliminate the mother to child transmission of four diseases that are prevalent in the Latin America and Caribbean region.

These are HIV, syphillis, hepatitis B and Chagas disease.

In a news release on Thursday, the health organisation said each year an estimated 2,100 children in Latin America and the Caribbean are born with HIV or contract it from their mothers.

Some 22,400 are infected with syphilis.

Nine-thousand are born with Chagas disease.

Six-thousand contract the hepatitis B virus.

According to PAHO, if not detected and treated in time, these infections can cause miscarriages, congenital malformations, neurological and heart problems, cirrhosis, liver cancer, and in some cases, even death.

Director of PAHO’s Latin American Center for Perinatology, Suzanne Serruya, says the new framework is an opportunity to integrate and redouble efforts to diagnose and treat pregnant women during prenatal check-ups.

Since 2010, Latin American and Caribbean countries have been working to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis as public health problems through the Strategy and Plan of Action for Elimination of Mother-to-child Transmission of HIV and Congenital Syphilis, coordinated by PAHO.

Since then, the countries have managed to reduce new infections in children by 55 per cent, from 4,700 to 2,100 between 2010 and 2015, preventing 28,000 children from being infected with HIV.

PAHO says that building on the success of this initiative resulted in the creation of the new framework which includes hepatitis B and Chagas disease.