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Alba Iulia
Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Syphilis testing in pregnant women falls short in Zambia

Health Syphilis testing in pregnant women falls short in Zambia

The vast majority of pregnant women in Zambia undergo HIV testing, but testing for syphilis is not nearly as common.

This is according to a study by Rindcy Davis, PhD, of Columbia University in New York City and Xu Xiong MD, DrPH, of Tulane University School of Public Health & Tropical Medicine in New Orleans .

The study results are similar to findings across Africa, showing that 60% of pregnant women during their first prenatal visit are tested for HIV infection while 40% are tested for syphilis.Across 13 antenatal clinics in Lusaka, 95% of the pregnant women obtained HIV testing, but just 29% of the women obtained syphilis testing.

Both diseases can be transmitted to newborns.

Also, 4% of the pregnant women were not tested for either disease, and “4% too much,” Davis said at her group’s poster presentation at the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care annual meeting.

The cross-sectional study used the 9-month baseline data from the Preventing Congenital Syphilis cluster randomized controlled trial.

The study included all consenting women who attended one of the Lusaka clinics for the first time from April 2015 through January 2016.

The results showed that 12,340 women were tested only for HIV; 192 women were tested only for syphilis; 5,004 of the women were tested for both HIV and syphilis, and 664 women did not receive testing for either pathogen.

“It is not any more difficult to perform a syphilis test than an HIV test,” Davis said. “In fact, there is work being done to do the tests together — so you can do one finger prick and get the results for both diseases.”

“It is important to note that this is just not happening in Zambia; it is also the situation in the United States,” she said.

“We are having a resurgence of congenital syphilis here.”

She said that pregnant women should be tested for syphilis “because it is curable and no one should be getting it, and should not be passing it on to their babies.”


  1. Something wrong here; syphilis testing is mandatory at the first visit in pregnancy for every woman who attends antenatal clinic and does not require consent from the woman. A fast look at antenatal records show a close to 100% coverage among pregnant women.

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