Sexual and reproductive health

Prevention of Mother-to-Child-Transmission of Syphilis (Congenital Syphilis)

Maldives eliminates mother-to-child transmission of HIV, Syphilis

WHO Regional Director awarded the certificate of “Elimination of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV and Syphilis to Vice President of the Maldives
WHO SEARO/ Shamila Sharma

15 July 2019 | MALÉ – Maldives has eliminated mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis, joining first few countries in the world to ensure a generation free of these deadly diseases. Maldives is the second country in WHO South-East Asia Region to achieve this feat, after Thailand. Globally, congenital syphilis is the second leading cause of preventable still births while mother-to-child transmission of HIV accounts for 9% new infections.

WHO publishes new estimates on congenital syphilis

Mother holding her baby, Ethiopia.
UNICEF Ethiopia

27 February 2019 | New estimates published today show that there were more than half a million (around 661,000) total cases of congenital syphilis in 2016, resulting in over 200,000 stillbirths and neonatal deaths. Syphilis is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections globally, with approximately 6 million new cases each year. If a pregnant woman who is infected does not receive early and effective treatment, she can then transmit the infection to her unborn infant.

Malaysia eliminates mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis

8 October 2018 | MANILA, Philippines – Malaysia today became the first country in the World Health Organization (WHO) Western Pacific Region to be certified as having eliminated mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis.

Shortages of benzathine penicillin. How big is the problem? And why it matters

27 December 2017 | Syphilis is unique among sexually transmitted diseases in that it remains curable with a single dose of penicillin (with no documented risk of resistance), formulated for this purpose as long-acting Benzathine Penicillin G (BPG). WHO estimates that every year, 930 000 pregnant women have probable active syphilis (transmissible during pregnancy) which results in approximately 350 000 adverse birth outcomes (including organ deformities and prematurity) annually. Tragically, neonatal death and stillbirth account for more than half of those adverse birth outcomes.

Six Caribbean islands eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis


1 December 2017 | Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Montserrat, and St. Kitts and Nevis today received a certificate from the World Health Organization (WHO) that validates their elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis.


3 October 2017: WHO releases guidance on screening for syphilis in pregnancy. This follows the recent release of the updated WHO treatment guidelines for syphilis and antenatal care. Mother-to-child transmission of syphilis is usually devastating to the fetus if maternal infection is not detected and treated sufficiently early in pregnancy. These three guidance documents can be used to ensure appropriate syphilis screening and treatment for pregnant women during antenatal care.

Global guidance on criteria and processes for validation: Elimination of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV and Syphilis

This document outlines minimum global processes and criteria for validation of the Mother-to-Child-Transmission (EMTCT) of HIV and/or syphilis in a country; provides a description of global elimination of EMTCT validation targets and indicators; explains the operation of validation committees and secretariats; and reviews the validation procedure itself, including maintenance of validation status.

fact buffet


AdvocacyAdvocacy tools to improve political commitment to congenital syphilis elimination



ClinicalClinical and laboratory tools to support congenital syphilis prevention

Clinical and laboratory tools


SurveillanceTools for surveillance and monitoring of congenital syphilis

Surveillance tools

Initiative for the Global Elimination of Syphilis and HIV

WHO validation for the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and/or syphilis

The global community has committed itself to eliminating mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) (1) of HIV and syphilis as a public health priority. The initiative to eliminate mother-to-child transmission (EMTCT) of HIV and syphilis focuses on a harmonized approach to improving health outcomes for mothers and children.

Evaluating the performance of individual laboratories

WHO/CDC Syphilis Serology Proficiency Programme

Proficiency Testing is important because it is a means of verifying the accuracy and reliability of laboratory testing. Quality control measures in syphilis serology are designed to ensure that reliable and reproducible test results are obtained within a laboratory and among different laboratories performing the same tests.

Syphilis in pregnancy

An overview of penicillin treatment for prevention of congenital syphilis