The World Health Organization recently released guidance for the elimination of mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) of HIV and syphilis in Europe.
The guidance, which provides guidelines on standardized processes and criteria to validate cases of MTCT of HIV and syphilis, focuses on country-led accountability, strong analytics and intergovernmental and interregional cooperation.
In 2012, more than 131,000 new HIV infections were reported in Europe and Central Asia-an eight percent increase from 2011-of which 29,000 were reported in the EU and European Economic Area, according to the EU.
Over the past few years, however, health authorities have managed to reduce the number of incidences of MTCT. Since 2010, the number of infected children in the World Health Organization's European region has fallen by 10 percent, and MTCT accounted for just one percent of new HIV cases in 2012.
The decrease may be attributed to widespread use of antiretroviral therapy and early diagnostics to identify those who are infected. According to the guidance, however, eliminating MTCT of HIV and syphilis is not an "'easy win.'"
"We must continue to strengthen the capacity of health systems worldwide to prevent HIV and syphilis infection in the general population, including women of reproductive age, by implementing efficacious MTCT interventions and point-of-care syphilis testing and treatment strategies..." the guidance said. "Success in all countries depends on the continued dedication from experts in HIV, syphilis, health policy, monitoring and evaluation, programme implementation and management, as well as from our civil society partners."
The guidance suggests countries and their health administrations work towards the goal of fewer than 50 HIV infections in children per 100,000 births and a transmission rate of less than five percent for breastfed children and less than two percent in non-breastfed children.
Impact targets for syphilis indicate that member countries should aim for fewer than 50 cases of congenital syphilis per 100,000 live births.
Additionally, the guidance encourages antenatal care coverage and HIV and syphilis testing for at least 95 percent of pregnant women, as well as antiretroviral treatment for at least 90 percent of HIV-positive pregnant women and treatment for at least 95 percent of women diagnosed with syphilis.
Countries may apply for validation of the elimination of MTCT of HIV and/or syphilis after they have met the suggested impact targets for one year and process targets for two years.