By Sandun A Jayasekera
In another achievement in the healthcare sector, the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared Sri Lanka as a country which has eliminated mother to child transmission of HIV and Syphilis, Director-General of Health Services Dr. Anil Jasinghe said yesterday.
According to the data reported by the National STD AIDS Control Programme of Sri Lanka, by the end of 2018, 85 children were infected with HIV due to mother to
“Annually, a very few children are being newly diagnosed with Congenital Syphilis,” he added.
In September 2015, the UN General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) out of which goal 3 is on good health and well-being. Ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being at all ages is essential for sustainable development of a nation. Eradication of polio, elimination of malaria and measles are major milestones which contributed to a marked reduction in neonatal, infant and child mortality rates in Sri Lanka, Dr. Jasinghe stressed..
HIV and syphilis testing coverage among pregnant women increased to 95% by end 2017, All pregnant women with HIV or syphilis and babies exposed to them were managed by local teams including MOH, Venereologists, Obstetricians and Paediatricians. All pregnant women diagnosed with HIV infection received EMTCT services and delivered uninfected children. By end 2018, the country had achieved the set targets to be eligible to request for validation of EMTCT of HIV and Syphilis status, he noted.
This programme contributed to the development of the country by assuring child health, reducing maternal illnesses and deaths and by increasing accessibility to services for women in disadvantaged situations. Further, it normalized the HIV test and promoted open discussion on HIV.
In July 2019, the Ministry of Health made a formal request to WHO to validate the EMTCT of HIV and syphilis status in the country. This was followed by the visit of the regional validation team (RVT) of experts, representing WHO South-East Asian Regional Office in mid-September 2019 to assess the elimination status. After a thorough assessment, the regional validation team presented its’ report on Sri Lanka to Global Validation Committee at WHO headquarters based in Geneva.
The WHO headquarters, based on the decision of Global Validation Committee, has formally declared that Sri Lanka has eliminated mother to child transmission of
HIV and syphilis.
While the Ministry of Health is happy to share the joy of great achievement with the entire population of the country, it wishes to place on record the appreciation of the massive effort exerted by all relevant stakeholders in this endeavour, was the appreciation expressed by Dr. Jasinghe.
All pregnant women diagnosed with HIV infection received EMTCT services and delivered uninfected children