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In Latin America and the Caribbean, some 160,000 cases of congenital syphilis are reported each year and 9,000 cases of HIV in children 

Washington, D.C., Sept. 30, 2010 (PAHO) — Representatives of member countries of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) pledged support today for a regional effort to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV and congenital syphilis by the year 2015. 

During the 50th PAHO Directing Council meeting, taking place in Washington, D.C., this week, ministers of health from throughout the Americas agreed that the elimination of these diseases is technically feasible. The majority of countries in the Region have the resources needed to improve the quality of care for pregnant women, including treatment for HIV and syphilis using an integrated approach. 

Despite this, HIV and congenital syphilis remain an important public health problem in Latin America and the Caribbean. Countries in the Region report some 160,000 cases of congenital syphilis each year, with outcomes including miscarriage, fetal death, premature birth, stillbirth, newborn death, low birth weight, and congenital infection with different degrees of severity.  

More than 9,000 children in Latin America and the Caribbean were estimated to have HIV as of 2008, implying major human, social and economic costs.  

The plan approved today aims to reduce mother-to-child transmission of HIV to less than 2 percent and the incidence of congenital syphilis to fewer than 0.5 cases per 1,000 live births. At these levels, the diseases would be eliminated as public health problems. The Region of the Americas is the first region to attempt to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of these diseases through simultaneous, integrated efforts.  

In Latin America and the Caribbean, the prevalence of syphilis in pregnant women is 3.9 percent, ranging in different countries from 0.7 percent to 7.2 percent. This is the highest prevalence of any region of the world and is substantially higher than the world average of 1.7 percent. 

The prevalence of HIV in pregnant women in the Region is estimated at only 0.3 percent, but this number varies significantly between countries; the highest estimated prevalence is in Haiti, at 1.9 percent. 

The strategy approved today seeks to eliminate these diseases through actions including: 

  • Strengthening maternal-child, newborn, and family and community health services in the areas of early detection, care and treatment of HIV and syphilis in pregnant women, their partners and their children.
  • Intensifying surveillance of HIV and syphilis in maternal-child health services.
  • Better integrating health services for HIV, sexual and reproductive health, newborn care, and family and community health.
  • Improving health promotion programs by increasing information, communication, and social participation and by taking account of the different needs of women and men. 

The strategy approved today contributes directly to the achievement of three Millennium Development Goals (MDGs): MDG-4, reducing child mortality; MDG-5, improving maternal health; and MDG-6, fighting HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases. 

PAHO was established in 1902 and is the world’s oldest public health organization. It works with all the countries of the Americas to improve the health and quality of life of the people of the Americas and serves as the Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization (WHO).

The PAHO Directing Council brings together ministers of health and other high-level delegates from throughout the Americas each year to set priorities for Pan-American cooperation in health and to guide PAHO’s technical cooperation programs in its Member States.  



Contact: Donna Eberwine-Villagran, email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , Tel. +1 202 974 3122, Knowledge Management and Communication Area, PAHO/WHO –

Last Updated on Friday, 01 October 2010 09:45

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