Cuba Eliminates Mother-to-Child HIV, Syphilis Transmission

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Jul 01, 2015 06:26 AM EDT

Cuba recently received a World Health Organization certification, confirming the successful elimination of mother-to-child HIV and syphilis transmission in the country.

According to the New York Times, the South American country provides its citizens with basic health care, which probably contributed to the extinction of HIV and syphilis transmission from mother-to-child.

On Tuesday, June 30, WHO and the Unaids, an aids fighting agency run by the United Nations, finally recognized the successful efforts of Cuba to decrease mother-to-child HIV transmission.

BBC states that about 1.4 million women with HIV become pregnant every year worldwide. The chances of transmitting the virus during pregnancy, labor, delivery, or breastfeeding, is 15 to 45 percent, if untreated.

The risk of the newborn baby contracting HIV drops significantly to 1 percent if antiretroviral medicines are administered to both infected mothers and their babies.

Meanwhile, about a million women with syphilis become pregnant each year around the world. To keep unborn babies safe from syphilis, early screening and treatment are necessary among pregnant women.

The official WHO website states that any country can obtain the certification similar to the one Cuba received by applying for it, and successfully meeting the qualifications set by the international organization.

Complete and total elimination of the disease is not necessary for the certification. However, the country must achieve a low level of transmission, so that it is no longer considered a public health problem.

According to the spokeswoman for the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Cuba is the first country to ever request for the certification from WHO.

Before Cuba received the certificate, WHO and PAHO sent an international delegation to Cuba on March 2015 to confirm that the country met the criteria for the certification.

Members of the delegation visited various health centers, laboratories, and government offices in Cuba for five days. They found that the country provided early access to prenatal care and treatment for women who were diagnosed with either HIV or syphilis.

Since Cuba's certification, 20 other countries have asked for the certification as well. The next countries in line for the certification are Bulgaria, Moldova, Turkmenistan, and Thailand.

PAHO Director, Dr. Carissa F. Etienne, who works closely to with WHO, said, "Cuba's success demonstrates that universal access and universal health coverage are feasible and indeed are the key to success, even against challenges as daunting as HIV."

She adds, "Cuba's achievement today provides inspiration for other countries to advance towards elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis."

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