Jakarta (ANTARA) - The Ministry of Health is continuously strengthening the screening of pregnant women to prevent mother-to-child (vertical) transmission of the human immunodeficiency virus or HIV.

"If (infected) at a young age, during childhood, it means mother-to-child vertical transmission still occurs," director general of disease prevention and handling at the ministry Maxi Rein Rondonuwu said at a World AIDS Day commemoration event on Thursday.

According to him, most HIV infections in children are acquired from parents.

Based on the ministry's data, 60 percent of HIV-infected patients are people in the productive age group, namely, 19 to 49 years.

Therefore, screening pregnant women is essential. The government is promoting screening for HIV along with hepatitis and syphilis.

According to Rondonuwu, through early screening, pregnant women infected with HIV can immediately get antiretroviral therapy (ART) to prevent transmission of the infection to their child.

The strengthening of screening must be balanced with the strengthening of reproductive health education among families. The Ministry of Health has asked the Ministry of Education, Culture, Research, and Technology to assist in efforts to strengthen reproductive health education, especially among teenagers in schools.

The education covers the dangers of free love, the use of condoms for protection, as well as the characteristics and symptoms of HIV/AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome).

Religious leaders and community networks can also play an important role in encouraging people to reject free love.

These efforts are aimed at increasing public awareness, especially to prevent the stopping of treatment of mothers due to several reasons, for example, long distance and lack of approval from their partner.

"Do not forget that we are also uniting the HIV/AIDS screening program with tuberculosis (screening). Almost all those with AIDS also get tuberculosis. We really have to unite these two," he said.

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Translator: Hreeloita Dharma, Raka Adji
Editor: Azis Kurmala
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