Effective and low-cost interventions for preventing the vertical transmission of syphilis can substantially reduce mortality and morbidity related to maternal and congenital syphilis. This study aims to identify successes and problems in eliminating congenital syphilis in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC).
Conducted in 2015, this multicountry study included qualitative data from focal point staff members of the Pan American Health Organization, as well as country information and answers to semiqualitative questions on the elimination of congenital syphilis. Additional information was obtained from five Caribbean
countries and Panama.
Few of the studied LAC countries use a rapid syphilis test, but most of them do have benzathine penicillin available in primary care facilities. The majority of the countries have national strategies and protocols for eliminating congenital syphilis. There were substantial differences among the national information systems, including with data collection, analysis, and quality control. The major challenges related to eliminating congenital syphilis are the need to improve: prenatal care; test coverage; health worker training about syphilis diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up; and access to institutional deliveries. Other problems include a lack of rapid tests; shortages of benzathine penicillin; and substandard laboratory quality. Poor follow-up of maternal syphilis cases and their sexual contacts was also reported.
Most of the LAC countries studied have national strategic plans and protocols and have advanced in the elimination of congenital syphilis. These countries must keep improving their capacity to collect high-quality data about coverage and inequities and use this data as a basis for decision-making. To accelerate the elimination of congenital syphilis, the good practices and actions that have been undertaken must be reinforced.