Local News Update: Sri Lanka is being declared as a country that has eliminated mother to child transmission of HIV and Syphilis by the World Health Organization. In September 2015, the UN General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) out of which goal 3 is on good health and wellbeing.
Ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being at all ages is essential for the sustainable development of a nation. Eradication of Polio, elimination of malaria and measles are major milestones that contributed to a marked reduction in neonatal, infant and child mortality rates in Sri Lanka.
According to the reported data by the National STD AIDS Control Programme, by the end of 2018, 85 children were infected with HIV due to mother to child transmission. Annually, very few children are being newly diagnosed with Congenital Syphilis.
Program for Prevention of Syphilis commenced in 1954 and in 2002 the Programme for Prevention of Paediatric HIV was established. In the year 2013, these two programs were combined and further strengthened as “Elimination of mother to child transmission (EMTCT) of HIV and Syphilis Programme” on a multidisciplinary approach. The strong links between maternal and child health services and sexually transmitted infection and HIV services in central and district levels government health sector were further strengthened and links were developed with private sector services. The Family Health Bureau (FHB) and the National STD& AIDS Control Programme(NSACP) worked closely to take services to the grassroots level through MOH offices and STD clinics in the districts. Provincial and district health authorities facilitated the implementation of the program in the communities. The program was supported by UN organizations, NGOs, persons living with HIV and key populations. The sustainability of the program is assured through government funding.
HIV and syphilis testing coverage among pregnant women increased to >95% by the end 2017. All pregnant women with HIV or syphilis and babies exposed were managed by local teams including MOH, Venereologists, Obstetricians, and Paediatricians. All pregnant women diagnosed with HIV infection received EMTCT services and delivered uninfected children. By the end of 2018, the country had achieved the set targets to be eligible to request for validation of EMTCT of HIV and Syphilis status.
This program contributed to the development of the country by assuring child health, reducing maternal illnesses and deaths and by increasing access to services for women in disadvantaged situations. Further, it normalized the HIV test and promoted open discussion on HIV.
In July 2019, the ministry of health made a formal request to WHO to validate the EMTCT of HIV and syphilis status in the country. This was followed by the visit of the regional validation team (RVT)of experts, representing WHO South-East Asian Regional Office in mid-September 2019to assess the elimination status. After a thorough assessment, the regional validation team presented its’ report on Sri Lanka to Global Validation Committee at WHO headquarters based in Geneva.
TheWHO headquarters, based on the decision of the Global Validation Committee, has formally declared that Sri Lanka has eliminated mother to child transmission of HIV and syphilis.
This achievement will have an inspiring impact on the resolve to End AIDS by 2025, five years ahead of the global target in 2030, a commitment undertaken by the country.
While the Ministry of Health is happy to share the joy of great achievement with the entire population of the country, it wishes to place on record the appreciation of the massive effort exerted by all relevant stakeholders in this endeavor. appreciation expressed by the Director-General of Health Services Dr. Anil Jasinghe.