Three More Caribbean Nations Newly Certified Free Of Mother-To-Baby Syphilis–Join St. Kitts and Nevis.

Photo courtesy of PAHO. Ceremony to celebrate three more countries in the region being free of mother-to-baby syphilis.
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Jamaica, Belize and St. Vincent and the Grenadines are the latest countries to receive certification from the World Health Organization  for the Elimination of the mother-to-child transmission  of HIV and Syphilis.

The milestone was marked on May 7 at a ceremony held at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in St. Andrew, which was organised by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) with support from United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), with the participation of health ministers from the three countries.

The achievement follows the implementation of interventions to strengthen the primary prevention and treatment services for HIV and Syphilis within the Maternal and Child Health (MCH) services of the countries, which is ongoing.

To date, 19 countries have received certification globally, with Jamaica being the largest English-speaking Caribbean State attaining the milestone.

Globally, 19 countries and territories have now been certified for eliminating mother-to-child transmission of HIV and/or syphilis, with 11 of them located in the Americas.

In 2015, Cuba made history by becoming the first country in the world to achieve the dual elimination of HIV and syphilis.

This was followed by Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Bermuda, Cayman Islands and Montserrat and St. Kitts and Nevis in 2017, and Dominica in 2020.

Health and Wellness Minister, Dr. Christopher Tufton, in his remarks at the function, said the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and Syphilis in the three Caribbean countries demonstrates the progress being made to improve maternal care on the island and in the wider region.

“This is a win that underscores protecting the health of all. It is also exemplary of the extraordinary progress being made in our maternal healthcare. What’s more, it is vitally important that we consolidate the gains made from this achievement, especially through continued community engagement and partnership for the public health interests of all,” he said.

WHO awards this certification to countries which have brought the mother-to-child HIV transmission rate to under 5%; provided antenatal care and antiretroviral treatment to more than 90% of pregnant women; reported fewer than 50 new cases of congenital syphilis per 100,000 newborns, and achieved an HIV case rate of fewer than 500 per 100,000 live births.

Dr. Tufton noted, further, that “there is need to increase linkage to and retention in care, testing, counselling, and adherence to HIV treatment and viral suppression. Early and regular uptake of safe maternity services, including antenatal care, remain critical, so too delivery care, including emergency obstetric and newborn care, and postnatal care and postpartum family planning. This is an area for much keener attention in our population and one that we here in Jamaica are placing great priority on”.

Director of the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), Dr. Jarbas Barbosa, encouraged regional leaders to ensure that rural communities benefit from the work to put sustainable measures in place.

“Let us continue our efforts with renewed determination, knowing that the work that is done at the local level, in rural and remote areas, indigenous communities and other vulnerable population will have a profound impact on the health and well-being of generations to come,” he said.

PAHO also pledged ongoing support to continue work to ensure that gains made to eliminate mother-to-child transmission is sustained, as well as expand certification to other countries within the region.

Representatives from the governments of Belize, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines were present at the ceremony to officially receive their certification.

Sources: Jamaica GIS, PAHO.
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