WHO congratulated Cuba on making a successful treatment course which will prevent transmission of HIV and syphilis to babies during pregnancy, labor and breastfeeding.
Every year 1.4 million women diagnosed with HIV become pregnant. Untreated, they have a 15-45% chance of transmitting the virus during pregnancy, labor or breastfeeding. The rate of syphilis transmission is close behind with 1 million pregnant woman worldwide infected.
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More than 35 million adults and children are living with HIV but the infection rate has slowed significantly, with 2.1 million becoming HIV positive in 2013, down from 2.9 million in 2005, according to UNAids data. In those numbers, the rate of infected babies had doubly reduced from 40,000 in 2004 to 24,000 in 2009.
Having no cure, the eradication of transmission of the disease has been very much an effort. Cuba has succeeded at last in prevention of the transmission of HIV and syphilis to fetuses during pregnancy and babies during labor and breastfeeding.
WHO’s director general, Margaret Chan congratulated Cuba and called the breakthrough as “one of the greatest public health achievements possible” and an important step towards an Aids-free generation. By prevention of transmission, the number of children born with the disease every year are significantly reduced.
"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," said Dr Margaret Chan, World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General. "Eliminating transmission of a virus is one of the greatest public health achievements possible."
The Caribbean countries have been trying to eradicate the transmission of this disease. With collaboration of Pan American Health Organization and World Health Organization; the countries introduced the use of antiretroviral drugs which played an important part in preventing the transmission of diseases to babies. HIV and syphilis testing for pregnant women and their partners, cesarean deliveries and substitution of breastfeeding have also contributed to the breaking of the infection chain.
"This is a celebration for Cuba and a celebration for children and families everywhere. It shows that ending the AIDS epidemic is possible and we expect Cuba to be the first of many countries coming forward to seek validation that they have ended their epidemics among children," said Michel Sidibe, Executive Director of UNAIDS.
Pan American Health Organization’s director Carissa Etienne said that the Cuban breakthrough was an initiative for the other countries to take sufficient steps for preventing the spread of disease as well.
The risk of contracting HIV and syphilis drops to just over 1% if the mother and baby are treated with antiretrovirals. Transmission of syphilis can be eliminated with simple treatments such as penicillin during pregnancy.
Only two babies in Cuba were born with HIV in Cuba, and only five born with congenital syphilis. This is a great news for all countries hoping to get rid of the disease in addition to all the HIV inflicted women who want to have a baby.
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