Cuba Is First Nation to Reach HIV Milestone
It has wiped out mother-to-baby transmissions, says WHO
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 30, 2015 3:26 PM CDT
A woman carries her baby in Old Havana, Cuba, in this file photo.   (AP Photo/Javier Galeano)

(Newser) – On at least one aspect of health care, the world's most advanced nations can now take a back seat to Cuba. The World Health Organization says Cuba has become the first country to eliminate mother-to-baby transmissions of HIV, reports NBC News. The same holds true for syphilis. Cuba did so not through some experimental treatment but through rigorous prenatal screening of pregnant women. Those who tested positive were given HIV drugs before and after giving birth, and their newborns were treated as well. When that happens, the percentage of infected babies falls to under 1%.

"Eliminating transmission of a virus is one of the greatest public health achievements possible," says WHO chief Margaret Chan. "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." Cuba's policies didn't completely wipe out such transmissions—two babies were born with HIV in 2013, and five with syphilis—but the numbers met WHO's criteria for certification, reports Reuters.