Cuba first to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV, syphilis

Cuba is the first country in the world to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis. World Health Organization director general Margaret Chan, pictured June 18, 2015, called the feat “one of the greatest public health achievements possible.” (Lee Jin-man/AP)

HAVANA, Cuba (MEDIA GENERAL) –The World Health Organization announced Tuesday, June 30, 2015 that Cuba was the first country in the world to eliminate the transmission of HIV and syphilis from mother to baby.

Over the past five years, Caribbean countries have increased access to antiretroviral drugs as part of an initiative to eliminate mother-to-child transmission. Tuesday’s announcement is a crowning achievement for that plan and the island’s health community.

WHO director general Margaret Chan called it “one of the greatest public health achievements possible.”

“This is a major victory in our long fight against HIV and sexually transmitted infections, and an important step toward having an AIDS-free generation,” Chan said in a statement.

According to WHO, every year an estimated 1.4 million women living with HIV throughout the world become pregnant.

“Without treatment, the mothers have between a 15 and 45 percent chance of transmitting the virus to the child during pregnancy, labor, delivery or breastfeeding. However, that risk drops to just over 1 percent if antiretroviral medicines are given to both mothers and children throughout the stages when infection can occur,” the WHO said.

According to the WHO statement, numbers of children born annually with HIV has almost been cut in half since 2009, down from 400,000 per year to 240,000 annually. The short-term goal is to bring that number down to 40,000.

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