Illustrative image (Source: WHO)

Kuala Lumpur (VNA) - Malaysia has become the first country in the Western Pacific to successfully eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis.

General Director of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus presented the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis (eMTCT) validation certificate to Malaysian Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad during the 69th session of the WHO Regional Committee for the Western Pacific in Manila, Philippines, on October 8.

Malaysia is the 12th nation in the world to get the certificate from the organisation.

To combat the problem, the Malaysian Health Ministry initiated the prevention of mother-to-child transmission preventive programme as a pioneer project in 1997, which was then expanded nationwide in 1998, said Dzulkefly.

The programme involves regular testing of pregnant mothers, with continuous treatment given to HIV-positive mothers and their babies. To ensure that the babies are not infected via breastfeeding, the government provides baby formula for free to the mothers for two years,

As for syphilis prevention, he said, the Malaysian government has been conducting universal syphilis testing for pregnant women over the past three decades, with infected mothers and their babies given comprehensive and specific medical care.

The minister said the HIV and syphilis PMTCT programmes successfully reduced the HIV transmission rate to under 2 percent in 2016, which fulfils the ‘eliminated’ status indicator.

Congenital syphilis transmission rates, meanwhile, are under 50 cases per 100,000 births, also meeting the ‘eliminated’ status indicator. In 2016, Malaysia recorded only four cases of congenital syphilis transmissions per 100,000 births.-VNA