World Health Organisation hails ‘one of the greatest public health achievements possible’, five years into regional initiative.
Cuba has become the first country to eliminate the transmission of HIV and syphilis from mother to baby, the World Health Organization has announced.
The WHO’s director general, Margaret Chan, said it was “one of the greatest public health achievements possible” and an important step towards an Aids-free generation.
Over the past five years, Caribbean countries have had increased access to antiretroviral drugs as part of a regional initiative to eliminate mother-to-child transmission.
HIV and syphilis testing for pregnant women and their partners, caesarean deliveries and substitution of breastfeeding have also contributed to the breaking of the infection chain, said the WHO.
Carissa Etienne, the director of the Pan American Health Organisation, which partnered with the WHO on the initiative, said: “Cuba’s achievement today provides inspiration for other countries to advance towards elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis.”
It is estimated that each year 1.4 million women living with HIV become pregnant. Untreated they have a 15-45% chance of transmitting the virus during pregnancy, labour or breastfeeding. The risk drops to just over 1% if the mother and baby are treated with antiretrovirals.