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Dominica on Friday celebrated its World Health Organization certification for elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis.
With the achievement, Dominica joined seven other Caribbean countries that have received the dual validation, demonstrating continuing regional progress against the two diseases, the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) said in a release.
During a virtual celebration, Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said “what we are celebrating here is truly a remarkable achievement. Eliminating mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis as a public health concern requires the strengthening of primary prevention and treatment services for HIV and syphilis for pregnant women within an established and successful maternal, perinatal and child health services.”
Dr. Carissa F. Etienne, WHO Regional Director for the Americas and Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), said, “Dominica’s journey to this ambitious achievement represents a cumulation of years of expanding the capacity of its primary care services to address communicable diseases and adopting harmonised and integrated approaches to improving the health outcomes for women and their children within maternal and child health services.”
While Dominica received the certificate for elimination during the ceremony today, the country was recommended by WHO for certification last September. New HIV infections among children in the Caribbean declined by nearly 40% between 2019 and 2010 – the year that the Regional Initiative for the Elimination of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV and Congenital Syphilis in Latin America and the Caribbean was launched. During that period, the number of cases declined from 3,400 to 1,500. Reported cases of congenital syphilis in the Caribbean are now at 9.6 cases per 100,000 newborns, well below the goal of no more than 50 cases per 100,000 newborns.
The seven other Caribbean countries and territories that have received the dual certification are Cuba in 2015 and Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Montserrat and Saint Kitts and Nevis in 2017. Worldwide, the rest of the countries that have received the certification include Maldives (2019), Sri Lanka (2019), Malaysia (2018), and Armenia (HIV only), Belarus and Moldova (syphilis only), and Thailand (HIV and syphilis) in 2016.
Dr. James Guwani, Director for the Caribbean Sub-regional Office of UNAIDS, noted that Dominica’s success brings the country and region a step closer to ending AIDS. “Dominica’s achievement in ensuring that its children are born free of HIV is truly inspiring and is testament to the combined strength and leadership of government, civil society activists and communities living with and affected by HIV. By putting people first, we can end the AIDS epidemic,” he asserted.
Jean Gough, UNICEF’s Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, said, “From now on, every child will be born free of HIV and congenital syphilis in Dominica. No mother will transmit these diseases to her children. Today is a moment of pride for the country, but also a source of hope for many others in Latin America and the Caribbean.”
Dr. Rosmond Adams, Director of the Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP), described the elimination as remarkable. “This is a commitment by Dominica that no child is born with HIV or congenital syphilis. It is also an indication of the country’s commitment and the hard work of the health care providers to reduce new HIV infections, which is a key strategy towards achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.”
Dominica’s efforts to achieve elimination were intensified and accelerated under the umbrella of the Regional Initiative for the Elimination of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV and Congenital Syphilis in Latin America and the Caribbean, coordinated by PAHO and UNICEF with support from other regional partners.