WHO Announces Cuba is First in the World to Eliminate Mother-to-Baby Transmission of HIV and Syphilis

By: | July 15th, 2015

If there is one thing for which Cuba has received praise over the years, it is its healthcare system, which is considered one of the best in the world.

Today, Cuba has shown that much of this praise is well deserved. It has become the first country in the world to eliminate the transmission of HIV and syphilis from mother to child. The World Health Organization (WHO) announced this achievement recently.

Despite its scarce resources, over the past few years, Cuba has worked to ensure early access to HIV and syphilis testing for both pregnant women and their partners. Subsequently, medical treatment of women who test positive, caesarean deliveries, and substitution of breastfeeding contributed in eradicating the transmission of HIV and syphilis.

Worldwide, an estimated 1.4 million HIV-infected women become pregnant each year. If not treated, they have up to a 45% chance of passing the virus to their babies during pregnancy. But this risk significantly drops to just around 1% if both mother and baby receive antiretrovirals.

Similarly, there are around 1 million syphilis-infected pregnant women worldwide each year. The rate of onward transmission can be reduced to a great extent by treating the mother with penicillin during pregnancy.

Though, there is currently no cure for AIDS or HIV infection, successful reduction in infection rates in Cuba is seen as a major breakthrough in helping the world to get rid of the virus.

Nidhi Goyal

Nidhi is a gold medalist Post Graduate in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.

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