KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia is the first country in the World Health Organization (WHO) Western Paci-fic Region to be certified as having eliminated mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis (eMTCT).
Health Minister Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad was presented with a validation certificate by WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus during the WHO Regional Committee for the Western Pacific session yesterday in Manila.
With the success, Malaysia is the 12th country in the world to receive the certificate. “Malaysia has achieved a level of health it can be proud of, where the mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis are no longer a key public health threat,” Dr Dzulkefly said in a statement.
He said HIV transmission from mother-to-child was the main cause of HIV infection among children.
Without intervention, between 30% and 45% of children born from HIV positive mothers would get the infection while in the womb, during delivery or through breast-feeding.
To overcome the problem, the ministry launched an infection prevention and treatment programme for the two infections.
To prevent babies from being infected with HIV through breastfeeding, the government had also given free formula milk as a replacement for two years.
For mothers infected with syphilis, 50% of babies born would suffer from congenital syphilis and low birth weight while some mothers suffer from miscarriage, premature delivery, stillbirth and complications from infections.
While the programmes reduced the rate of HIV infection from mother-to-child to less than 2% in 2016, which met the elimination status indicators, the transmission of syphilis had always been low with 50 cases per 100,000 life births, which also indicates elimination.
Dr Dzulkefly hopes that with WHO’s continuous support, Malaysia would be able to achieve similar success for Hepatitis B.