The prevalence of syphilis in pregnant women in Akwa Ibom State, Southern Nigeria
Background: Treponema pallidum, the causative organism of syphilis has been a public health challenge for centuries. Syphilis is a significant cause of morbidities and mortalities in pregnant women, and information regarding its prevalence in Nigerian pregnant women is scanty particularly from the south‑south zone.
Objective: To determine the prevalence of syphilis in women receiving antenatal care in twelve health care centres in Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria.
Methodology: Pre‑coded structured questionnaires were administered to 911 participants over an eight week period. Venous blood samples were collected from each participant and tested with a Treponema pallidum immunochromatographic test.
Results: There were about 18 women (1.98%) tested positive to syphilis. Prevalence rates in urban and rural areas were 2.63% and 1.32% respectively. The women from urban areas had a 3.22 (95% CI 1.05‑9.85) increased risk of acquiring syphilis when compared to the rural dwellers. Women with tertiary level of education had a significantly reduced risk of acquiring syphilis compared to those with primary level education while having an unemployed husband increased the risk of acquiring the infection by 10 times.
Conclusion: Though VDRL is part of routine antenatal care screening, a policy of its use in the screening of all women receiving antenatal care in Akwa Ibom state should emphasized and it should be incorporated into the state Government’s free antenatal care program. Preferably, a single rapid test should be employed for screening, so that women testing positive could be treated at same clinic visit. Economic empowerment of women should be accorded priority and the practice of safe sex and use of contraception, especially barrier methods should be promoted.
Keywords: Akwa Ibom state; antenatal attendees; prevalence; syphilis