The World Health Organization announced that Cuba has become the first country to eliminate the spread of HIV and syphilis from mother to baby, the Guardian reports. This development comes after Caribbean countries have had increased access to antiretrovirals over the last five years to curtail the mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
Margaret Chan, WHO's director general, called it "one of the greatest public health achievements possible."
If an HIV-positive woman becomes pregnant, her chances of passing on the virus to her child drop to just over 1 percent (down from 15 to 45 percent) if she and her baby are treated with antiretrovirals. In 2013, only two babies in Cuba were born with HIV.
The director of the Pan American Health Organization, Carissa Etienne, said that "Cuba's achievement today provides inspiration for other countries to advance towards elimination of mother-to-child-transmission of HIV and syphilis."
WHO said other factors contributed to "breaking the infection chain," such as HIV and syphilis testing for pregnant women and their partners, caesarean deliveries, and breastfeeding alternatives.
Scientists believe that even without a cure, eradication of AIDS is possible if HIV prevention continues. The Guardian referred to Cuba's advancement as "a major breakthrough in the campaign to rid of the world of the virus."
[via the Guardian]