South Africa recommends universal syphilis and HIV testing in pregnancy, with prompt antiretroviral therapy or penicillin treatment for women testing positive.
We used a multistage, purposeful sampling strategy to retrospectively identify clinical records from a sample (7.3%) of 32,518 women delivering from January 2005 to June 2006 at 6 public clinics in the Northern Cape and Gauteng. Descriptive analyses and logistic regression were used to assess coverage and factors related to testing and treatment of HIV and syphilis.
Of 2379 women sampled, 93% accessed antenatal care (ANC) services during pregnancy and 71% before the third pregnancy trimester. Testing during pregnancy or delivery was 74% for HIV and 84% for syphilis; testing at the first ANC visit was 41% and 71%; and infection prevalence at delivery was 14% and 5%, respectively. Of 243 women with reactive HIV tests, 104 (43%) had treatment documented (single-dose nevirapine) before delivery. Of 98 women with reactive syphilis tests, 73% had documented receipt of 1 penicillin injection and 36% had all 3 recommended injections. Multivariable analysis found women tested for syphilis were almost 4 times more likely to have had no HIV test compared with those without syphilis testing (adjusted odds ratios, 3.9; 95% confidence interval, 1.7–5.5).
Integration and provision of a package of HIV and syphilis testing at the first ANC visit and decentralizing treatments of both infections to primary care settings could increase the coverage of testing and treatment services, thus enhancing the effectiveness of current programs eliminating mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis.