Cuba – First Country to Eliminate Transmission of HIV/SyphilisCuba has become the first country in eliminating the transmission of HIV and syphilis from mother to baby and has demonstrated that its health care system is something that can be admired and learned by becoming the first country to receive World Health Organization – WHO, validation.Margaret Chan, WHO’s director general has said that it was `one of the greatest public health achievements possible’ and an important step for an Aid-free generation.
Caribbean countries over the past five years have improved access to antiretroviral drugs as a regional initiative in eliminating mother-to-child transmission. Syphilis and HIV testing of pregnant women as well as their partners, caesarean deliveries and substitution of breastfeeding have made their contribution in the breakthrough of the infection chain according to `WHO’.
Though the term `elimination’ may give rise to believe that this type of transmission could have been cleared out, it is not essential to meet the needs set out by WHO for the purpose of validation. On the contrary, the country requires demonstration that the country has less than 50 infections from this route of transmission for 100,000 births for at least a year though Cuba has exceeded these requirements. Only two babies were born with HIV and just five with syphilis in 2013.
Major Victory in Long Fight against HIVDr Margaret Chan commented in a statement that `eliminating transmission of a virus is one of the greatest public health achievements possible. This is a major victory in the long fight against HIV and sexually transmitted infection and an important step towards an AID-free generation.
There are around 16 million women living with HIV, all over the world and every year about 1.4 million of them tend to get pregnant and the risk of transferring the virus to their child is around 1%, if the anti-HIV drug is not given during phases where infection tends to take place, right through the stage of pregnancy to breastfeeding.
If they are left without any treatment, there could be around 45% chance of the child getting infected during any of these stages. While syphilis obtains considerably less attention than HIV, the infection at the time of pregnancy could tend to be serious bad news since it could lead to stillbirth or neonatal death without the antibiotic therapy.
Initiative Set in 2010 to Reduce Mother-to-child TransmissionAn initiative was set up in 2010 to reduce the mother-to-child transmission rate of both of these, which improved the access to testing as well as treating these infection, caesarean deliveries as well as breastfeeding alternatives.
Services which tend to form part of the universal health system of Cuba are said to be implemented in various other countries and are being helpful towards the global aim of less than 40,000 new infections yearly. Though Cuba could be the first country in receiving the WHO validation stamp, it is not that other countries have not reached the elimination position.
As Carissa Etienne, Pan American Health Organization Director points out that it is likely that the U.S. and Canada have already eliminated mother-to-child transmission of both these infections, but have not sought validation. Thirty other countries have requested validation and so they could see the list begin to grow soon.