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Cuba first to eliminate mother –to- child HIV and syphilis transmission


06/07/2015

Cuba has become the first country in the world to have eliminated mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis.

The Director-General of the World Health Organisation has hailed this achievement as “one of the greatest public health achievements possible... and an important step towards having and AIDS-free generation”

Every year globally, approximately 1.4 million women with HIV become pregnant; if they are not treated they have a 15-45% chance of transmitting the virus to their children during pregnancy, labour, delivery or breastfeeding. If mother and baby are treated with antiretroviral medicines during the stages where they can be infected then that risk drops to just 1%.

Globally, approximately 1 million pregnant women are infected with syphilis every year. This leads to foetal loss and stillbirth, neonatal death, low birth weight and serious neonatal infections. This can be avoided through simple screening and treatment options during pregnancy, such as penicillin.

Cuba has worked to ensure early access to prenatal care, HIV and syphilis testing for pregnant women and their partners and also access to treatment for women who test positive and their babies. This has been possible due to a fair, accessible and universal health system which maternal and child health programs are integrated with programs for HIV and sexually transmitted infections.

Dr Carissa Etienne Director of the Pan African Health Organisation stated “Cuba’s achievement today provides inspiration for other countries to advance towards elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis”

AHPN believes Cuba’s achievement of eliminating mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis is an achievement which can be replicated globally. The significance of Cuba (a middle income country) being first in achieving such an important target gives hope to many other low and middle income countries in replicating accomplishing the same goal. It has been reported that many of the practices Cuba implemented were simple and cost effective. Cuba should now be seen as a template of which the world should strive to imitate in order to achieve an AIDS free generation.