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Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV and Syphilis Globally

Photo: mother and child Every year, approximately 370,000 babies are born with HIV, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa. Without treatment, more than half of these children will die before the age of 2. Through key interventions, such as routinely testing pregnant women for HIV, providing antiretroviral medications to HIV-infected pregnant women and their exposed infants, and promoting safe infant feeding practices, mother-to-child transmission of HIV can be decreased from about 35% to less than 5%.

Another prominent cause of infant mortality is untreated maternal syphilis, which still accounts for more than 500,000 stillbirths and infant deaths annually despite the fact that these deaths could be prevented through routine detection and treatment of syphilis during antenatal care.

CDC is a leader in the global efforts to substantially reduce mother-to-child transmission of HIV and congenital syphilis. CDC is supporting several countries, through the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) program, to scale up interventions to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

Winnable battle goals for CDC in 13 high burden African countries include:

  • Increasing the percentage of pregnant women who receive HIV testing and counseling
  • Increasing the percentage of HIV-infected pregnant women who receive antiretroviral medications

Additionally, in one country, CDC is supporting the integration of services to prevent mother-to-child transmission of both HIV and syphilis. Use of rapid point-of-care testing for both HIV and syphilis during the antenatal care visit ensures that, before leaving the clinic, women found to have HIV are provided antiretroviral medications and women found to have syphilis are treated.

Through the enhancement of existing antenatal data collection systems, program outcomes and maternal and infant health impact will be monitored and evaluated for both broad PMTCT scale-up and focused, integrated service provision.

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