Malaysia feted for eliminating mother-to-child HIV and syphilis transmission

Health Minister Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad (right) and Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah holding the certificate of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis elimination on Monday, Oct 8, in Manila, the Philippines.

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia has become the first country in the World Health Organisation (WHO) Western Pacific Region to be certified as having eliminated mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis.  

WHO regional director for the Western Pacific Dr Shin Young-soo thanked Malaysia for its efforts over the past several years as parents can now ensure their babies are born free of HIV and syphilis and can have a healthy start to life.  

“Elimination could not have been achieved without Malaysia’s strong commitment to ensuring access to quality and affordable health services for all women, children and families,” he said in a joint statement by WHO regional office for the Western Pacific, Unicef regional office for East Asia and Pacific, UNAIDS Asia Pacific and Malaysia’s Ministry of Health.  

WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and Dr Shin presented Malaysia’s Health Minister Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad with a certificate of elimination during the session of the WHO Regional Committee for the Western Pacific, which opened on Monday (Oct 8) in Manila, the Philippines.  

Malaysia was among the early adopters globally of national prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV and syphilis in maternal and child health services, said the statement.  

The country started PMTCT services in 1998. Today, antenatal testing and treatment for HIV and syphilis are provided free of charge, and virtually all women have access to good quality health services including contraception and births assisted by skilled attendants.  

As a result, the number of babies born with HIV or syphilis has reduced to the level compatible with global elimination criteria.

The sustainability of services is ensured through full financial integration into the annual budget of the Family Health Programme.  

“Achieving elimination is not the end of our struggle to ensure every Malaysian child starts life healthy and free of HIV and syphilis.  

“It’s the beginning of a never-ending journey to provide exceptional quality of care to prevent all infections that pass from mother to child,” said Dr Dzulkefly.  

“It is my sincere hope that this programme, which is a source of national pride and importance, shall be further enhanced in the years to come through strong political support and regular engagement with civil society.”
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