Watch out, world. Another country just made history.
The beautiful Caribbean island of Cuba is the first country ever to officially eliminate the majority of mother-to-child HIV and syphilis transmissions. The World Health Organization validated the good news in a press release earlier this week.
According to the WHO, 1.4 million women with HIV become pregnant each year. Unless mother and child are able to receive antiviral medicine, there's a 15-45 percent chance they could pass the disease onto their offspring.
"Eliminating transmission of a virus is one of the greatest public health achievements possible," Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General, said in the press release. "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" she added.
But the country's elimination of the disease didn't happen overnight...
The achievement came after a long WHO initiative, which began in 2010, that encouraged access to prenatal care, HIV and STD testing for women and children, finding alternatives to breastfeeding (HIV can be passed through bodily fluids) and encouraging cesarian sections (or non-vaginal births) to decrease the intermixing of the mother's and child's blood.
Research and the initiative have collectedly shown that anti-viral medicines administered to mothers especially decrease mother-to-child transmission. Though there are still a few cases where the virus has transferred, Cuba's number of transmissions were low enough for WHO to declare the news.
In 2013, only two babies were born with HIV and only 3 babies were born with congenital syphilis in Cuba.
Cuba didn't have too high of an HIV prevalence to begin with, as Science Mag points out, but being able to have a method that does work to eliminate HIV and syphilis in any capacity is one worth cheering for.
"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," PAHO Director, Dr Carissa F. Etienne, also stated in the WHO press release. "Cuba's achievement today provides inspiration for other countries to advance towards elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis."
Thankfully, although the first to be validated by WHO, Cuba is likely only the first of many countries in the coming months and years to receive recognition. About 30 other countries reportedly have also requested to their elimination of mother-to-child transmission via documentation and site visits.