Cuba has been a known leader in the medical field and also with regards to providing access to universal health care for its citizens. The country recently reached a huge milestone. The World Health Organization (WHO) recently announced that Cuba is the first country to eliminate the transmission of HIV and syphilis from mother-to-child. Currently, less than 2% of babies born to mothers with HIV in Cuba are born with the virus. In 2013, only two children were born with HIV in Cuba and only 5 with syphilis that same year.
Transmission of HIV from mother to child is always a big risk during pregnancy and delivery. When pregnant mothers don’t have access to the adequate care and treatment necessary to prevent transmission during childbirth the likelihood of the child being infected is high.
Global statistics note that 1.4 million women infected with HIV become pregnant around the world. These women have an up to 45% chance of transmitting the virus to their newborns when left untreated. It’s critical that women at risk are given antiretroviral medicines which lowers the risk of transmission to 1%. Syphilis still infects 1 million women worldwide every year too. The same rules apply with this; treatment is important in prevention of transmission.
Dr. Margaret Chan, the head of WHO said that Cuba’s achievement is “one of the greatest public health achievements.” With efforts being made worldwide to reduce transmission from mother to child, 22 countries have also managed to reduce the numbers by 50% which is a big accomplishment. Of course there is still so much work to be done.
Cuba’s leadership in getting the numbers down is something many countries can learn from.