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2023-01-10 10:44:39

China has pledged to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV, syphilis, and hepatitis B by 2025, as part of efforts to protect the already declining number of newborns vulnerable to the fatal diseases.

The country plans to slash the rate of HIV transmission from infected mothers to babies to below 2% in the coming years, down from 3.3% in 2021, according to an action plan published by the National Health Commission on Dec. 30. It also aims to cut the transmission rate of hepatitis B to 1% or less, and reduce the number of babies infected with congenital syphilis to 50 or fewer per 100,000 live births.

Mother-to-child transmission of HIV, syphilis, and hepatitis B virus has a severe impact on the growth of newborns. A research paper by experts from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention shows that about 35% of HIV-infected children will die within one year of birth in the absence of any treatment, while getting infected with syphilis and hepatitis B can pose health risks such as liver cancer.

The national plan from the country’s top health authority includes preventing infections among women of childbearing age, detecting infections in mothers at an early stage, treating infected women and newborns as early as possible, as well as urging local health officials to set up local timelines and increasing funding for the elimination work.

The new plan is in line with the goals proposed by the World Health Organization. As of 2022, 14 countries have successfully eliminated mother-to-child transmission of HIV, syphilis, and hepatitis B.

After launching a pilot to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV in the central Henan province as early as 2001, China has rolled out a national program to eliminate the transmission of the three viruses from mothers to babies over the past decade, offering free tests and treatment to pregnant women and newborns.

The action plan comes after authorities launched pilot projects in Zhejiang, Guangdong, and Yunnan provinces to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV, syphilis, and hepatitis B since 2017. So far, four cities in Guangdong, including Guangzhou and Shenzhen, have announced they have reached that goal, according to media reports.

Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: VCG)