Malaysia first in region to eliminate mother-child HIV, syphilis transmissions

10-Oct-2018 Intellasia | AFP | 6:00 AM Print This Post

Malaysia has become the first country in the West Pacific region to successfully reduce mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis until it is no longer a public health problem.

World Health Organization (WHO) director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus presented Health minister Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad with the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis (eMTCT) validation certificate at the WHO Asia-Pacific regional committee meeting in Manila, Philippines on Monday.

This makes Malaysia only the 12th country in the world to receive the eMTCT validation certificate from the organisation.

Dr Ying-Ru Lo, the WHO representative for Brunei, Malaysia and Singapore, congratulated Malaysia for its achievements.

“I congratulate Malaysia for its achievements. Malaysia’s success in ensuring babies born free of HIV and syphilis is an indication of a health care system that truly provides health care to those in need.

“With this strong foundation in place I am confident that health care will remain accessible to all and sustainable for future generations,” said Dr Lo.

Meanwhile, Dr Dzulkefly said the recognition marks Malaysia’s ascent to having achieved a major milestone in healthcare standards, with vertical HIV and syphilis transmissions no longer posing a major health concern.

He said mother-to-child HIV transmissions were among the main causes of HIV infections among children. Without intervention, around 30 to 45 per cent of children born to HIV-positive mothers would be infected in the womb, during childbirth or via breastfeeding.

“To combat the problem, the health ministry initiated the prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) preventive programme as a pioneer project in 1997, which was then expanded nationwide in 1998.

“The programme involves regular testing of pregnant mothers, with continuous treatment given to HIV-positive mothers and their babies. To ensure that the babies are not infected via breastfeeding, the government provides baby formula for free to the mothers for two years,

“As for syphilis prevention, the government has been conducting universal syphilis testing for pregnant women over the past three decades, with infected mothers and their babies given comprehensive and specific medical care,” he said.

The minister said the HIV and syphilis PMTCT programmes successfully reduced the HIV transmission rate to under 2 per cent in 2016, which fulfils the ‘eliminated’ status indicator.

Congenital syphilis transmission rates, meanwhile, are under 50 cases per 100,000 births, also meeting the ‘eliminated’ status indicator. In 2016, Malaysia recorded only four cases of congenital syphilis transmissions per 100,000 births.

Dr Dzulkifli said the WHO urged countries to obtain the eMTCT for three contagious diseasesHIV, syphilis and Hepatitis B.

“Malaysia’s achievements in obtaining the eMTCT for the two diseases serves as an impetus for us to obtain an eMTCT for Hepatitis B.

“Several states in Malaysia will begin Hepatitis B testing for pregnant mothers as a pioneer project; this will be expanded nationwide in stages,” he said.


Category: Malaysia

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