Montserrat To Receive Validation of Elimination of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV

Montserrat is one of seven Caribbean nations scheduled to receive a validation certificate declaring the “Elimination of Mother-to-Child Transmission (EMTCT) of HIV and Syphilis”.

This will make it one of the first English-speaking countries in the OECS, CARICOM and the Americas to receive this certificate. The Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) plans to acknowledge this success on World AIDS Day under the theme “Access to Health.” The other islands are St. Kitts & Nevis, Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Bermuda, and the Cayman Islands.

The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) can be transmitted in different ways. One of which is from mother to baby during pregnancy, delivery and breastfeeding. The virus invades the cells of the immune system, altering and stopping its ability to fight infectious agents.

According to the PAHO website, if a pregnant woman with HIV is receiving treatment with antiretrovirals, the possibility of her transmitting the virus to the baby is extraordinarily reduced.  Without prophylactic treatment, around 15 to 30% of babies born to HIV-positive women are infected during pregnancy and delivery. Another 5 to 20% are infected through breastfeeding.

Access to diagnostic tests to detect HIV infection, antiretroviral therapy to HIV-positive pregnant women, safe delivery practices, and the wide availability and safe use of replacement feeding can eliminate almost entirely the mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

Congenital syphilis is one of the most severe diseases caused by syphilis infection. Pregnant women with active syphilis present adverse outcomes during the pregnancy in almost 80% of cases, resulting in miscarriages, neonatal deaths, premature and low birth weight infants, as well as serious deformities at birth.

Cuba was the first country in the world to be validated by WHO for reaching elimination.