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Javier Galeano/AP/Press Association Images

Cuba first country to end mother-to-child HIV transmission

Less than 2% of children born to mothers who have HIV carry the virus.

CUBA HAS BECOME the first nation in the world to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

An expert mission sent to the country in March concluded that less than 2% of children with mothers who have HIV are born with the virus.

Dr Margaret Chain, the director-general of WHO, called it “one of the greatest public health achievements possible” and said it was an important step towards achieving an aids-free generation.

Since 2010, Cuba has had increased access to HIV and syphilis testing, prenatal care and breastfeeding alternatives for pregnant women as part of a regional initiative.

Dr Carissa F. Etienne, the director of the Pan American Health Organisation, which oversaw the initiative along with WHO, said the achievement can provide inspiration for other countries.

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.

An estimated 1.4 million women living with HIV become pregnant every year.

Without treatment, there is a 15-45% chance that they will transmit the virus to their children during pregnancy, labour, delivery or breastfeeding.

The risk drops to just over 1% if antiretroviral medicines are provided to both mothers and children.

The number of children born with HIV every year has reduced from 400,000 in 2009 to 240,000 in 2013, according to WHO.

Read: HSE investigating rise in HIV amongst injecting drug users in Dublin >

Read: The shocking story of the rise of HIV in one rural American community >

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