Sexual and reproductive health

Elimination of congenital syphilis

Global activities

Elimination of mother-to-child transmission (EMTCT) of HIV and syphilis

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JUNE 2014 - New guidance fills a critical gap by providing internationally standardized processes and criteria to validate EMTCT of HIV and/or syphilis as a public health problem.

The cost and cost-effectiveness of scaling up screening and treatment of syphilis in pregnancy: a model

Screening and treatment for syphilis in pregnancy is relatively simple and inexpensive, and has been shown to be cost-effective even in low-resource settings. New technologies, such as point-of-care tests, can be used regardless of limited infrastructure and allow for diagnosis and treatment at a single visit. Treatment with penicillin is inexpensive, and if diagnosed early, is highly effective in preventing adverse pregnancy outcomes associated with syphilis in pregnancy

  • See full article
    Kahn JG, Jiwani A, Gomez GB, Hawkes SJ, Chesson HW, et al. (2014) The Cost and Cost-Effectiveness of Scaling up Screening and Treatment of Syphilis in Pregnancy: A Model. PLoS ONE 9(1): e87510. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0087510
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Investment case for eliminating mother-to-child transmission of syphilis: promoting better maternal and child health and stronger health systems

Front cover

WHO outlines the epidemiologic, economic, and health systems strengthening benefits of investing in elimination of mother-to-child transmission of syphilis. Twelve countries (Central African Republic, China, Ghana, Honduras, Indonesia, Madagascar, Mozambique, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay, and Zambia) have been nominated by WHO regional offices for intensified support to scale-up national efforts and strengthen underlying maternal and child health systems.

The Rapid Syphilis Test Toolkit

A Guide to Planning, Management and Implementation

The Global Congenital Syphilis Partnership* has been launched to champion and invest in the fight against congenital syphilis. WHO looks forward to collaborating with this new Partnership to raise awareness of the need to eliminate congenital syphilis, provide training and technical support for increasing capacity to diagnose syphilis in countries, and identify opportunities to integrate congenital syphilis elimination efforts within HIV and maternal and child health activities. Through this partnership, a toolkit has been developed to assist with introduction of rapid syphilis tests in countries.

Criteria and processes for validation of elimination of mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) of HIV and syphilis, 6–8 June 2012

The consultation aimed to reach a consensus on global criteria and processes to validate elimination, and identify next steps to finalize and establish a validation process. Experiences from country pilots in Botswana, Cambodia, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Moldova, Saint Lucia and South Africa were discussed. (UNFPA, UNAIDS, UNICEF and WHO cosponsored the consultation and the country pilots).

WHO Global Health Observatory

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    Syphilis in pregnancy, sex workers and MSM with active syphilis

Congenital syphilis highlighted at international conferences

Congenital syphilis was highlighted in a variety of oral sessions at the 19th and 20th International Society of Sexually Transmitted Disease Research (ISSTDR) conferences, in 2011 and 2013

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Congenital syphilis identified as a "Winnable Battle"

The U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified reduction of mother-to-child HIV transmission and congenital syphilis as one of five major public health goals for which major progress can be made with sustained, coordinated effort. These "winnable battles" will be a special focus for CDC as it implements its broad global health portfolio.


*Partners include: the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Save the Children, and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Congenital syphilis is the second most common cause of stillbirth.