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International News

"Fragmentation of Services" Hinders Child Care in the Caribbean

May 14, 2010

In late 2009, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) launched an initiative seeking to eliminate vertical (mother-to-child) transmission of HIV and syphilis in Latin America and the Caribbean by 2015.

With an average of 0.3 percent of pregnant women in the region being HIV-positive, an estimated 5,700-10,400 babies each year become infected during pregnancy, delivery or breastfeeding. Syphilis affects roughly 4 percent of women in Latin America and the Caribbean every year, and at least 164,000 babies are born with congenital syphilis annually.

"The PAHO initiative is aimed at guaranteeing that pregnant women have access to antenatal care, diagnosis and, if necessary, treatment, which is very simple in the case of syphilis," said Dr. Marcelo Vila, the organization's advisor on HIV/AIDS and STDs for Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay. Good health care during pregnancy can eliminate transmission of both HIV and syphilis.

PAHO's Andean region advisor, Dr. Bertha Gumez, said some countries in the region -- like Cuba and Chile -- are models in vertical transmission prevention, while others -- like Haiti, Bolivia and Paraguay -- are lagging behind. In general, however, "the basic conditions for the elimination of both diseases are in reach in the region," according to the initiative's conceptual document.

Key hurdles include the "fragmentation of services" in some health systems, lack of prenatal care, childbirth attended by non-medical personnel and access to diagnostic tests. PAHO cited cases of some pregnant women being given preventive treatment against HIV transmission, only to see their babies die from congenital syphilis.

Patricia Perez, coordinator of the International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS, said the PAHO initiative is a start, but women's participation is needed to make it a success.

Back to other news for May 2010

Adapted from:
Inter Press Service
05.11.2010; Marcela Valente

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
See Also
Pregnancy and HIV/AIDS in the Developing World