Health authorities have warned of an increase in congenital syphilis cases in Samoa and thereby heighten the risk of mother-to-child transmission.
A report released recently by the Ministry of Health titled “National Guideline on Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission of H.I.V., Syphilis and Hepatitis B and C”, highlights the dangers that both mothers and their unborn children face in the long-term period.
Preventing mother to child transmission of human immunodeficiency virus (H.I.V.) and sexually transmitted infections (S.T.I.) is a health priority in Samoa.
“For pregnant women, Samoa has used W.H.O. Option B+ (treat all antenatal women free of cost) which has been implemented country-wide. Congenital syphilis in particular is a rapidly growing threat. The current global target for mother to child transmission of syphilis is 50 cases or less per 100,000 live births,” stated the report.
“Samoa is currently below that target, however congenital syphilis cases are estimated to greatly increase, which threatens P.M.T.C.T. Historically there have been six children born to five mothers living with H.I.V. that were not on preventative antiretroviral (A.R.T.) regimes.”
But it is all not bad news with the report also highlighting two successful cases of people living with H.I.V. given proper regiments to prevent H.I.V. transmission, which were successful.
“This low incidence of mother-to-child (M.T.C.) transmission is largely due to the work of the Communicable Disease Clinic in ensuring treatment is brought to all cases to support adherence.”
According to the report, the challenge remains with encouraging higher rates of antennal clinic attendance by pregnant women.
“Out of all estimated pregnant women in the country, 26 percent reported for A.N.C. care in 2016. This increased significantly in 2017 to 50.2 percent. This is tremendous progress but more work remains to be done with access to antenatal care and birth services. The Apia Birth Health Study conducted in 2016 by the H.I.V., S.T.I., and T.B. National Programme revealed that out of all the births that occurred at T.T.M. between 2014-2015, 71.2 percent of women (4,280) had at least 1 recorded antenatal care visit at a healthcare facility (and therefore had H.I.V./S.T.I. screening).”