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After we learned that Cuba has had a cancer-suppressing vaccine for several years, it seemed impossible the country could have achieved another medical milestone — until the World Health Organization recently announced that Cuba had become the “first country to eliminate the transmission of HIV and syphilis from mother to baby.”

Unfortunately, this doesn’t actually mean that there were zero mother-to-child transmissions of HIV in the island nation. According to the WHO’s website: “As treatment for prevention of mother-to-child-transmission is not 100% effective, elimination of transmission is defined as a reduction of transmission to such a low level that it no longer constitutes a public health problem.” Still, that is quite an accomplishment: Only two babies were born with HIV in Cuba in 2013.

From The Guardian:

The WHO’s director general, Margaret Chan, said it was “one of the greatest public health achievements possible” and an important step towards an Aids-free generation.

Over the past five years, Caribbean countries have had increased access to antiretroviral drugs as part of a regional initiative to eliminate mother-to-child transmission.

HIV and syphilis testing for pregnant women and their partners, caesarean deliveries and substitution of breastfeeding have also contributed to the breaking of the infection chain, said the WHO…Scientists have said eradicating Aids is feasible if HIV prevention continues to grow, even if there is no cure. The reduction in infection rates in Cuba is seen as a major breakthrough in the campaign to rid the world of the virus.

Read more.

—Posted by Natasha Hakimi Zapata

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