Mother-to-child HIV transmission is one of the most tragic ways of contracting the disease, which is why Cuba must be that much more appreciated for its achievement of becoming the first country to completely eradicate it.
International public health officials hope that their accomplishment will encourage and inspire other governments to invest more in campaigns or policies that would lead them closer to the same goal.
It was once only a pipe dream to eradicate the virus, but the idea had increasingly gained traction among world leaders, which eventually led to Cuba achieving the feat.
Margaret Chan, director-general of World Health Organization, is the one to have announced its accomplishment, calling it a “major victory” and a key milestone in the fight against HIV and STDs. She added that an AIDS-free generation is now officially possible, encouraging other nations to follow through.
Michel Sidibé, UNAIDS’s executive director, gave a statement saying that Cuba has restored the world’s faith in the possibility of ending the AIDS epidemic. When the outbreak started, health officials were affected the most by the sheer number of HIV-positive babies who were born to HIV-positive women.
Nowadays, administering antiretrovirals to both the mother and the child has helped doctors to curb the risk of transmission to just over 1 percent. That’s how the number of HIV-positive babies born every year has seen such a dramatic drop; in 2009, there were 400,000 confirmed cases, while in 2013, that number was cut almost in half, reaching 240,000.
Unfortunately, a lot of the babies being born with HIV come from mothers who live in low-income countries, where treatments and basic medical services are often out of reach for the common women.
In 2010, Cuba joined a project conducted by the Pan American Health Organization in collaboration with WHO, whose efforts were focused on eliminating mother-to-child transmission of syphilis and HIV.
The initiative intended for all the countries involved to increase access to prenatal care, by making it more widely available. At the same time, both mothers and babies were offered testing for the diseases and treatment, when it was needed.
The Cuban government implemented these services as a part of the population’s health system. Therefore, the country’s efforts paid off when WHO declared that in 2013, only two children were born HIV-positive.
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