(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

Philippines to investigate possible syphillis among displaced Mindanao women

A mother and her baby wait for food rations in Mindanao, the southern Philippines
Jason Gutierrez/IRIN

Health experts in the Philippines will launch a six-month study to ascertain the presence of syphilis among displaced pregnant women in Mindanao.

"This will conclude whether we are dealing with syphilis, yaws, or a combination of the two," Gerard Belimac, manager of the country's national AIDS/STI prevention and control programme, told IRIN.

The move follows a report by Médecins Sans Frontières Switzerland (MSF) in 2009 that 25.5 percent of women undergoing antenatal and post-natal care had tested positive for treponematosis, a group of non-venereal infections, as well as the bacterium Treponema pallidum, which causes syphilis.

The study will focus on priority areas of Maguindanao and North Cotabato provinces where high rates were reported. Participants - including 900 pregnant women and 200 of their husbands - will be provided with syphilis screening, counselling and treatment if necessary, Belimac said. Scheduled to begin in September, the study is a joint effort of the Department of Health, the UN Population Fund, the World Health Organization and the UN Children's Fund.


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