If you don't remember your password, you can reset it by entering your email address and clicking the Reset Password button. You will then receive an email that contains a secure link for resetting your password
If the address matches a valid account an email will be sent to __email__ with instructions for resetting your password
Research and Innovation Centre, King Saud Medical City, Ministry of Health, Saudi ArabiaCollege of Medicine, Alfaisal University, Riyadh, Saudi ArabiaHubert Department of Global Health, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, Atlanta, GA, USA
College of Medicine, Alfaisal University, Riyadh, Saudi ArabiaHubert Department of Global Health, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, Atlanta, GA, USAStanley Ho Centre for Emerging Infectious Diseases, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, ChinaInternational Society for Infectious Diseases
]. However, the percentage of pregnant women living with HIV (WLWH) receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART) has stalled since 2015. ART coverage has been quite varied, with 43% of all pregnant WLWH living in western and central Africa not on ART in 2021 [
Progress with the prevention of MTCT of HIV has given an impetus to the prevention of perinatal transmission of syphilis and hepatitis B virus (HBV). MTCT of syphilis during pregnancy can lead to serious outcomes including stillbirth, neonatal death and congenital infections [
]. Likewise, chronic HBV infection is an important cause of morbidity and mortality. In 2019, 296 million people were living with chronic HBV infection, with 1.5 million new infections occurring each year [
Given the significant morbidity of these conditions, the triple elimination of MTCT (EMTCT) of HIV, syphilis and HBV has been identified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a global public health priority. Effective tools for the prevention of MTCT of these infections are already available [
]. As HIV, syphilis and HBV share common transmission dynamics and determinants, a joint approach towards triple elimination could maximise impact and efficiency. Triple EMTCT services could be integrated in maternal and child health programmes and be part of a universal health coverage package. EMTCT services should be affordable, comprehensive, non-discriminatory and accessible by all, including vulnerable women such as migrants and key populations. Core EMTCT services include primary prevention of HIV, syphilis and HBV among women of childbearing age; antenatal screening for HIV, syphilis and HBV; prompt linkage to care for pregnant women who test positive; safe delivery; treatment and follow up of exposed infants; and optimal infant-feeding.
To drive these EMTCT initiatives, WHO released the first edition of its global guidance on the criteria and processes for validating EMTCT of HIV and syphilis in 2014 [
]. This was subsequently followed by the establishment of the Global Validation Advisory Committee in 2015 to objectively evaluate if countries had achieved EMTCT. In 2017, the Path to Elimination concept was introduced to recognise countries with a high burden of HIV and/or syphilis that have made significant progress in lowering MTCT rates [
The triple validation process is a perfect illustration of public health and human rights convergence. A key requirement for validation of a country for triple EMTCT is that interventions to reach the specified targets have been implemented in a manner consistent with international, regional and national human rights standards and have taken gender equality into consideration. Given the many challenges of translating principles into practice, global progress towards validation has been slow. In 2015, Cuba became the first country in the world to be validated for having achieved EMTCT of HIV and syphilis [
What can we learn from countries that have been validated for EMTCT of HIV and/or syphilis? The success of many of these countries should be seen more as the culmination of many decades of progress in implementing public health policies than as a targeted approach with a narrow objective. The common denominator has been the recognition of the importance of equity of access. This is especially relevant as we commemorate World AIDS Day 2022 (theme: Achieving Equity to End HIV), with UNAIDS urging us to address the inequalities holding back progress in ending AIDS. In the early stages of policy development for EMTCT, these countries have addressed inequalities that existed among key populations and migrant workers facing major legal barriers including criminalisation, stigma and discrimination. These inequalities were not just barriers to achieving EMTCT but could perpetuate public health risk arising from concealment of HIV status/risk and non-engagement with healthcare professionals.
The countries that are yet to be validated for EMTCT represent a wide spectrum. At one end, many developed countries with robust health systems have already provided routine antenatal screening for HIV, syphilis and HBV and treatment for women who test positive and their exposed infants. These countries may have met the validation process and impact targets, but lack surveillance systems to capture appropriate data. A further challenge would be providing evidence for equitable access to healthcare for vulnerable populations, including migrants and ethnic minorities. At the other end of the spectrum are developing countries that might lack political will and leadership towards EMTCT due to limited resources and competing public health priorities [
]. Moreover, weaker health and surveillance systems could hinder progress with meeting the validation targets. Furthermore, some of these countries have punitive laws that constitute a barrier to access to healthcare. A further challenge is the higher HIV prevalence and rates of breastfeeding; despite their concerted efforts, these countries would struggle to achieve the targets for MTCT of HIV rates. On the other hand, countries with lower HIV prevalence might not have policies for universal HIV, syphilis and HBV in pregnancy.
To conclude, MTCT of HIV, syphilis and HBV remains a global public health problem causing significant morbidity and mortality. Since the launch of the EMTCT initiative by WHO in 2014.The number of countries that have been validated for HIV and/or syphilis remained small. However, the global community has revitalised its commitment to triple EMTCT. Indeed, the Global Health Sector Strategies on HIV, viral hepatitis and sexually transmitted infections for the period 2022-2030 sets challenging targets for the number of countries validated for the EMTCT of either HIV, HBV, or syphilis of 50 and 100 by 2025 and 2030, respectively [
]. To achieve these ambitious targets, WHO and their other UN partners should continue their advocacy, political diplomacy and technical support towards triple EMTCT. Implementation research could add to the scientific knowledge base of triple EMTCT. Countries considering to achieve triple EMTCT could learn from validated countries with efforts for strengthening health systems so as to provide sustainable and equitable EMTCT services that meet the stringent validation standards.
Author declarations: All authors declare no conflicts of interest.