Press Release:-The Ministry of Health has sought formal clarification and retraction of a statement released by the UNAIDS on December 01, 2016 which claimed that St. Lucia was the only Eastern Caribbean Country which has not eliminated mother to child transmission of HIV, a claim which the ministry proved was completely unfounded.
The last reported case of mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) of HIV was in 2010.
This is largely attributed to the National PMTCT (Prevention of mother-to-child transmission) program which was created in 2008. The PMTCT Coordinator is an integral part of this program and serves as the Ministry of Health’s link between the health care delivery system and the client and is responsible for following all pregnant women and the exposed baby at the community level pre, intra and post-delivery.
Having consistently maintained zero vertical transmission of HIV since 2011, the Ministry of Health of Saint Lucia solicited the assistance of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) to review essential data for HIV and syphilis with the overall aim of applying for validation.
This process commenced with the piloting of the EMTCT validation tools in St. Lucia and the internal review and analysis of data for both HIV and syphilis in collaboration with the PAHO Country Office in Barbados.
This process was extremely critical as it identified key gaps and allowed for the strengthening of the primary prevention services for HIV and syphilis for antenatal care.
The Pan American Health Organization explained that the validation status in the region is only obtainable when a country has demonstrated the elimination of vertical transmission of both HIV and Syphilis.
The years covered by this validation exercise are 2011-2014 and while Saint Lucia was able to meet the targets for elimination of MTCT of HIV for this period, attaining these targets for congenital syphilis proved more challenging. Like some of the other islands in the Eastern Caribbean, Saint Lucia awaits the official assessment in order to determine the island’s status.
The Ministry of Health of Saint Lucia remains committed in its efforts in preventing mother to child transmission of HIV.
UNAIDS for its part has assured the ministry that it will publish a full retraction of the statement and highlight St. Lucia’s accomplishment in the elimination of mother to child transmission of HIV since 2010.