WHO praises Malaysia for stopping HIV, syphilis transmission from mothers

Malaysia’s efforts in antenatal care have ensured almost all women have access to quality health services. (Youtube screengrab)

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia today became the first country in the World Health Organisation (WHO) Western Pacific Region to be certified as having eliminated mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis.

Its regional director Dr Shin Young-soo said thanks to the country’s efforts over the past several years, parents can now ensure their babies are born HIV and syphilis-free.

“Elimination could not have been achieved without Malaysia’s strong commitment to ensuring access to quality and affordable health services for all women, children and families,” he said in a joint statement.

According to the international health organisation, Malaysia had in 1998, implemented a national prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV and syphilis in maternal and child health services, making it among the early adopters of the initiative.

It noted that currently, antenatal testing and treatment for HIV and syphilis are provided free of charge, and virtually all women have access to quality health services including contraception and births assisted by skilled attendants.

“As a result, the number of babies born with HIV or syphilis has reduced to the level compatible with global elimination criteria,” the statement read, adding that the sustainability of services is ensured through full financial integration into the annual budget of the Family Health Programme.

UNAIDS regional director for Asia and the Pacific, Eamonn Murphy, said that Malaysia was at the forefront of a global effort to ensure that no child is born with HIV or congenital syphilis.

UNAIDS is leading the global effort to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.

“A combination of political commitment, stronger systems for health, and timely prevention, diagnosis and treatment is the key to success.”

Meanwhile, Health Minister Dzulkelfy Ahmad, who was in Manilla to receive a certificate acknowledging its achievement, said he hopes that the programme, which he called a “source of national pride and importance” will be further improved in years to come.