Cuba recently made headlines with its lung cancer vaccine that is coming to the U.S. and now they have become the first country in the world to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis.
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According to the World Health Organization (WHO), every year there are an estimated 1.4 million women around the world living with HIV that become pregnant and they have a 15-45% chance of transmitting the virus to their child during pregnancy, labor, delivery, or even breastfeeding.
The risk of transmitting the virus drops 1% if they take antiretroviral medicines during the months when infection can occur. Cuba has worked to make sure women get treatment they need. They have worked with WHO and other partners in Cuba since 2010 to implement a regional initiative to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis. They have worked to make sure women have early access to prenatal care and treatment for those who test positive.
Cuba has a universal health system where maternal and child health programs are integrated with programs for HIV and sexually transmitted infections. This shows that the key to success is having universal access to health coverage.
In 2007, WHO launched the global elimination of congenital syphilis, which is a strategy that aims to increase syphilis testing and treatment for pregnant women globally. By 2014 over 40 countries were testing 95% or more pregnant women in prenatal care for syphilis.
Cuba is leading the example, and the World Health Organization hopes that more countries will follow in their footsteps to prevent the mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis.