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World

Cuba, the first country to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis

Translated Sunday 5 July 2015, by Sonia Govindankutty

WHO hails an important step "towards the goal of a generation free from HIV"

Cuba has notched up a huge victory in the public healthcare domain. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has officially declared Cuba the first country in the world to have successfully stopped the transmission of the HIV and syphilis virus from mother to child. Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO describes it as a big step "towards the goal of a generation free from HIV". For Dr Carissa Etienne, Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the victory over this disease also proves that "universal medical cover and access to medical care is possible."
The figures released by WHO reveal the urgency of the situation. Every year, nearly 1.4 million women infected with the HIV virus become pregnant worldwide. Without access to antiretroviral drugs, these future mothers are at a 15% to 45% risk of transmitting HIV to their child during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding. Thanks to treatments targeted at both mother and child, the risk has fallen to just above 1%. Since 2009, the number of children showing clinical signs of HIV infection has halved, from 400 000 to 240 000 infants in 2013. In its earlier communication, WHO had highlighted that in the absence of drugs, one-third of HIV-positive babies died before they turned one and 50% before the age of two.


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