Global syphilis overview
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection caused by the Treponema pallidum bacterium. It can be passed on via sexual contact, blood transfusion and from mother-to-child during pregnancy. Many people are unaware of the infection and experience significant ill health, or even death, if it is not treated.
Testing for syphilis is essential to prevent onwards transmission and adverse effects during pregnancy. Each year, more than 210,000 stillbirths and newborn deaths are caused by congenital syphilis. If the infection is detected, it can be easily cured with penicillin benzathine, keeping mother and baby safe.
However, only 40-60% of pregnant women in low- and middle-income countries are tested for syphilis. Increasing the testing rate will ensure more cases of syphilis are diagnosed and treated, protecting the health of mothers and babies.
“Every year hundreds of thousands of syphilis infections pass undiagnosed from mothers to their unborn children, resulting in stillbirths, congenital defects, or deaths of their newborns. In many cases they never even know the cause.”
Ms. Joy Phumaphi, interim co-CEO, CHAI
Impact to date:
Case study: Dual test for HIV and syphilis
MedAccess’ volume guarantee for SD Biosensor enabled the manufacturer to offer its dual test for less than $1 per test. This is the lowest ever price for a HIV/syphilis dual test, and close to single HIV test pricing.
Bringing the test closer to price parity with HIV tests, means procurers are able to purchase the dual test for almost the same cost as single HIV tests they were already purchasing. Countries are able to use well-established HIV testing infrastructure to offer pregnant women tests for HIV and syphilis simultaneously when they visit health clinics.
We estimate that more than 50,000 stillbirths and miscarriages will be averted through increased access to syphilis testing supported by the guarantee.
“Hopefully soon we can eradicate the possibility of any of these diseases being passed down to a child who is just starting their life.”
Dr Akudo Ikpeazu, public health physician and director and head of the national AIDS, viral hepatitis and STIs control program, Federal Ministry of Health, Nigeria