All babies delivered so far by mothers identified as being HIV-positive last year have tested negative to the virus, stressing the need for pregnant mothers to undergo the HIV test being conducted by the Ministry of Health.

Director of National STD/AIDS Control Unit, Ministry of Health, Dr. Sisira Liyanage said 17 pregnant mothers with HIV proved positive in tests conducted last year. In 2014, the number of pregnant mothers identified as HIV-positive was 11, he pointed out.

However, Dr. Liyanage said the main reason for the increasing number of mothers being identified last year was due to the number of tests had increased.

The Ministry first started screening pregnant mothers for HIV in 2013.

“About 350,000 pregnant mothers register with the clinics run by the Ministry of Health annually. We were able to test about 180,000 last year. That is a percentage of roughly 65-70 percent. Our aim in 2016 is to get this a lot closer to the 100 percent mark and hopefully, have everyone tested,” Dr. Liyanage stated.

He also disclosed that 10-12 of the pregnant mothers who were diagnosed as HIV-positive last year had already delivered their babies and all of those babies had tested negative for HIV. “By identifying the virus in the mothers early, we were able to administer treatment that ensured the feotuses were protected from being infected with the virus,” he further said.

According to Dr. Liyanage, the blood sample used to test for HIV is the same one used to test for ‘Syphilis,’ another Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD). Even in the case of Syphilis, an early confirmed diagnosis enables doctors to administer treatment so that the baby is not infected. The Syphilis test has been conducted for several decades in the country and currently, the HIV test is paired with the one for Syphilis.

Tests are conducted free of charge at all government-run clinics for pregnant mothers.  He, however pointed out that there was also a percentage of pregnant mothers who do not register with the government healthcare system and opt for private healthcare. “We urge them to take the HIV test at the private hospitals they visit.”