Number of babies born with HIV down 78% in Latin America and Caribbean

19 December 2014
Stop AIDS sign in Zanzibar, Tanzania

The number of babies born with HIV in Latin America and the Caribbean has decreased by 78 percent – from 10,700 in 2001, to 2,324 in 2013 – according to a new report by the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). The report entitled, Elimination of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV and Congenital Syphilis in the Americas, documents progress made towards the 2015 goals of eliminating mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) of HIV and congenital syphilis in the region.

According to the report, engagement with antenatal care in Latin America and the Caribbean is high. In 2013, 93 percent of pregnant women attended at least one antenatal visit, whilst 87 percent attended four or more – WHO’s recommended number of check-ups . In 2013, 74 percent of pregnant woman accessed counseling and testing for HIV – up 18 percent from 2001. Of the pregnant women living with HIV, 93 percent accessed antiretroviral treatment (ART) for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) during their pregnancy – up from 59 percent in 2001. Engaging mothers with HIV services has meant that vertical transmission of HIV has decreased from 18 percent in 2010, to just five percent in 2013.

Latin America and the Caribbean are on track for reaching their goal of eliminating MTCT of HIV to less than two percent by 2015 – something attributed to the strong health systems and integration of HIV services into general health systems. However, there are gaps in its reach of adolescent girls in need of antenatal care. Also, improving reaching pregnant women with syphilis services has not been as pronounced as HIV services. Around 80 percent of pregnant women were tested for syphilis, falling short of the 95 percent coverage target.

This report shows that nine countries in the region have reached their target of eliminating vertical transmission of HIV, 15 countries have eliminated congenital syphilis, and seven countries have eliminated both illnesses. Overall, Latin America and the Caribbean have made significant progress in reducing new HIV infections, AIDS-related deaths, and increasing coverage of ART. PAHO/WHO have committed to redoubling their efforts to help countries reach their targets for the elimination of both congenital syphilis and HIV by 2015.