Cuba has become the first country to eradicate mother-to-baby HIV and syphilis transmission.
In 2013, just two babies were born with HIV and five with congenital syphilis.
The eradication has been validated by the World Health Organization (WHO), who class eradication as reducing it so such a low level that it is no longer a public health problem.
The treatment for preventing transmission is not yet 100 percent effective, but countries are required to meet strict criteria for validation.
WHO Director-General, Margaret Chan, said, “Eliminating transmission of a virus is 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 towards having an AIDS-free generation.”
Over a million women living HIV become pregnant every year. If they are not treated, there is a 15-45% risk that the virus will be transmitted to their baby during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding.
If anti-retroviral medicines are given to both the mother and child, the risk of transmission drops to less than two percent.
In 2009, 400,000 children were born with HIV. Thanks to global efforts, this number had almost halved to 240,000 by 2013. There is a global target of just 40,000 new child infections per year, though there is still a long way to go before this reached.
It is expected that a number of other countries will follow Cuba’s example and soon eradicate mother-to-baby transmission of these illnesses.
Each year, one million pregnant women are infected with syphilis. If caught in time, syphilis can be treated with antibiotics. If left untreated, however, this condition can result in miscarriage, stillbirth and neo-natal death. Screening and treatment during pregnancy can reduce the risk of these outcomes.
Global efforts are being made to tackle syphilis transmission. In 40 countries, as many as 95% of pregnant women now undergo testing for this condition. There are still countries, however, who are yet to prioritise prevent mother-to-baby transmission of syphilis.
Cuba has worked hard to provide early access to prenatal care, HIV and syphilis testing, and prenatal treatment.
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