Cuba just became the first country to eliminate HIV transmission between mother and child

by Walter Einenkel

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced yesterday that Cuba is the first country in the world to “eliminate” the transmission of HIV (and syphilis) between mother and child.
WHO defines “elimination” of transmission as “reduction of transmission to such a low level that it no longer constitutes a public health problem.” A panel of international health experts visited Cuba in March and concluded that the country met the standards required for validation. In 2013, only two babies were born with HIV and five with congenital syphilis.
Around the world, about 1.4 million women with HIV become pregnant every year. If left untreated, there’s a 15-45% chance that they transmit the virus to their child during pregnancy, delivery, or breastfeeding, according to WHO. But that risk can drop to as low as 1% if both mother and child are given antiretroviral medication.

What is Cuba’s secret? I don’t know. Maybe it’s the hot weather. Maybe it’s communism. Maybe it’s obvious:
But Cubans have one advantage that certainly helped: The country provides basic healthcare to its citizens free of charge.
There are problems with Cuba’s model (to say the least), but HIV is becoming less of one, and when you consider how right-wing zealots in our country look at health care, sex education, and drug prevention, you have to wonder what data they are looking at.

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