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Rapid Syphilis Could Prevent Congenital Disease and Stillbirths in Haiti

lis tests commercially available. Four of the tests were evaluated in a field trial at the GHESKIO Center in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and found to be simple to administer, offering easy-to-interpret results within 30 minutes. Haiti is one of several developing countries where in pregnant women infection with untreated syphilis is as common as infection with HIV.

'Relying on the appearance of symptoms allows for many syphilis cases to be missed. And for most rural women, making even one repeat visit to a clinic to learn the results of a test and be treated is too much of a personal burden. Requiring only one clinic visit, rapid testing followed by immediate treatment proved to be definitely the best strategy,' says co-author Dr. Jean W. Pape, founder and director of GHESKIO and professor of medicine in the Division of International Medicine and Infectious Diseases at Weill Cornell Medical College.

Dr. Pape, an internationally renowned infectious disease expert who is from Haiti, founded GHESKIO more than 25 years ago. The organization is dedicated to the battle against HIV/AIDS, childhood diarrhea and tuberculosis. Since its inception, GHESKIO has worked closely with Weill Cornell Medical College in championing education, health care and HIV research in Haiti. The work of GHESKIO and its partners has led to a 50 percent decrease in infant mortality in Haiti and a similar decrease in the national HIV prevalence.

Researchers evaluated cost-effectiveness by predicting the health outcomes for each strategy as 'disability-adjusted life years' (DALYs) -- reflecting the number of years of healthy life lost due to congenital syphilis among newborn babies, the number of stillbirths and the number of neonatal deaths. While rapid testing was found to be more expensive than other approaches, its value compared to current syphilis screening standards of care in rural and urban areas was represented by cost-effectiveness ratios of $7-$10 per
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