Caribbean countries review progress towards Elimination Initiative
Nassau, The Bahamas, June 11 2010 - The Caribbean is making steady progress towards the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and congenital syphilis. This was the key finding of the meeting of 14 Chief Medical Officers (CMO) of the English speaking Caribbean and medical authorities from Haiti and the Dominican Republic which ended in the Bahamas today.
The meeting reviewed the status of the implementation of strategies towards the elimination of these two diseases in the region. The CMOs met jointly with the Technical Working Group (TWG) of the Regional Initiative for the Elimination of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV and Congenital Syphilis in the Caribbean. The initiative spearheaded by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) is also supported by the Pan Caribbean Partnership Against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP). The Clinton Foundation and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) also participated in the meeting.
Countries presented examples of progress towards achieving the elimination goals, including expanding antenatal care coverage, offering free HIV and syphilis screening and counseling, and the integration of antenatal care, family planning and sexually transmitted infection services. Many challenges still remain including systems to generate reliable information, tracking partners, and greater involvement of men in the prevention of the two diseases.
The Caribbean region has an estimated 0.9 – 1.2% adult HIV prevalence, the second highest estimated burden of HIV infection in the world. Mother-to-child transmission of HIV constitutes an estimated 8-10% of all HIV transmissions in the region, and the estimated HIV prevalence among pregnant women is 1.1 percent. Without intervention an estimated 2200 – 3000 children will be born with HIV infection in the Caribbean each year.
An estimated 32,000 cases of gestational syphilis occur in the Caribbean annually. Without treatment 50-80% of these pregnancies will have adverse outcomes.
The goal of the initiative is to reduce mother-to-child HIV transmission to less than 2 percent by the year 2015 and to reduce the incidence of congenital syphilis to fewer than 0.5 cases per 1,000 live births, thereby eliminating these diseases as public health problems. The Latin America and Caribbean region is the first to propose the elimination of maternal transmission of these two diseases in an integrated and simultaneous way.