HAVANA, Cuba, Jun 30 2015 – Cuba has become the world’s first country to end the transmission of HIV and syphilis from mother to child, it was announced today.
The World Health Organization hailed what it called ‘one of the greatest public health achievements possible’, adding that it was ‘an important step towards having an Aids-free generation’.
Elimination of transmission is defined by the group as a reduction to such a low level that it is no longer a public health problem.
UNAids executive director Michel Sidibé said: ‘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.’
PAHO director Carissa Etienne 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.’
Cuba’s Communist government considers its free healthcare a major achievement of the 1959 revolution.
But ordinary Cubans complain of a decline in standards since the fall of the Soviet Union, the country’s former benefactor, in 1991.
The PAHO and WHO credited Cuba with offering women early access to prenatal care, HIV and syphilis testing, and treatment for mothers who test positive.
The two organisations began an effort to end congenital transmission of HIV and syphilis in Cuba and other countries in the Americas in 2010.
WHO director general Dr Margaret Chan said: ‘Eliminating transmission of a virus is one of the greatest public health achievements possible.
‘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.’