Worldwide, the mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis are significant causes of death in infants and young children each year. Of the approximately 2.7 million new HIV infections among adults and children in 2011, it is estimated that about 325,000 babies were born to HIV-positive mothers, most of whom are in sub-Saharan Africa. Maternal syphilis is also a significant cause of infant mortality. The WHO estimates that about 1.86 million cases of syphilis occur worldwide among pregnant women year, and that more than 500,000 perinatal deaths occur each year as a result of untreated maternal syphilis. The WHO launched a global initiative for the elimination of congenital syphilis in 2007, yet syphilis screening programs for pregnant women still have not been widely implemented in resource-limited settings.

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