Friday June 21, 2019

Cuba becomes the first country to eliminate mother-to-child HIV: WHO


Havana: Cuba on Tuesday became the first country in the world to eradicate the transmission of HIV and syphilis from mother to newborn, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The WHO announced in a press release that it validated Cuba’s success in eliminating mother-to-child transmission.

“Eliminating transmission of a virus is one of the greatest public health achievements possible,” WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said.

“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,” she added.

Cuba celebrated getting the recognition from the international agency.

“It is a historic day for the prevention of HIV and AIDS and for progress towards a generation free of this burden both nationwide and around the world,” Xinhua cited Cuba’s state daily Granma as saying.

“This is a celebration for Cuba and a celebration for children and families everywhere. It shows that ending the AIDS epidemic is possible and we expect Cuba to be the first of many countries coming forward to seek validation that they have ended their epidemics among children,” said Michel Sidibe, executive director of UNAIDS.

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Every year, an estimated 1.4 million women around the globe living with HIV become pregnant. Untreated, they have a 15-45 percent chance of transmitting the virus to their children during pregnancy, labor, delivery or breastfeeding, according to the WHO.

The good news is that the risk drops to just over 1 percent if anti-retroviral medicines are given to both mothers and children throughout the stages when infection can occur.

The number of children born annually with HIV has almost halved since 2009, down from 400,000 in 2009 to 240,000 in 2013, but much more needs to be done “to reach the global target of less than 40,000 new child infections per year by 2015”, the WHO said.

Nearly 1 million pregnant women worldwide are infected with syphilis annually, which can result in early fetal loss and stillbirth, neonatal death, low-birth-weight infants and serious neonatal infections.
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Thanks to Cuba’s “equitable, accessible and universal health system”, infected pregnant women are ensured key early access to prenatal care, and HIV and syphilis testing for them and their partners, the WHO said.

Cuba succeeded in lowering the HIV transmission rate to 1.85 percent, below the 2 percent target rate countries in the region in conjunction with the WHO and other health agencies had been aiming for.

“Cuba’s achievement today provides inspiration for other countries to advance towards elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis,” said Carissa F. Etienne, director of the Pan American Health Organisation.


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WHO Launches Tool for Safer Use of Antibiotics, Curb Resistance

Its global initiative, so-called AWaRe campaign, is aimed at making decision and policymakers aware

WHO, Tool, Antibiotics
FILE - This illustration released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows a group of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. VOA

The World Health Organization (WHO) is launching a new tool to reduce the spread of antimicrobial resistance. Its global initiative, so-called AWaRe campaign, is aimed at making decision and policymakers aware of the appropriate and effective use of antibiotics for specific infections.

Antimicrobial resistance is growing because of the widespread abuse and misuse of antibiotics. The WHO considers antimicrobial resistance one of the most urgent health risks in the world. It warns a century of medical progress will be undone without accelerated action to contain rising resistance by making antibiotic use safer and more effective.

WHO assistant director general for access to medicines Mariangela Simao says pneumonia kills many children in developing countries because they do not get appropriate medication.

“More than almost a million deaths in developing countries is due to treatable bacterial diseases, which can in most cases be linked to the lack of access to antibiotics, or to wrong diagnostics, or to wrong prescriptions,” she said. “So, we, by launching this tool, WHO aims at narrowing the gap between excess use and access.”

WHO, Tool, Antibiotics
The World Health Organization (WHO) is launching a new tool to reduce the spread of antimicrobial resistance. Pixabay

The tool is based on the WHO Essential Medicines List. The list specifies which antibiotics to use for the most common and serious infections and those which should be available at all times in the health care system.

WHO Assistant Director General for Antimicrobial Resistance, Hanan Balkhy, says the Essential Medicines List also indicates those antibiotics that must be used sparingly and as a last resort.

“We expect that the list will actually be a legitimate reference for health care providers who would like to understand the better ways of prescribing antibiotics,” she said. “And that following these guidelines will actually help them in having a system of how they would prescribe antibiotics, and have it based on a legitimate resource, which is the WHO.”

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The World Health Organization notes no significant investments are being made in the development of new antibiotics. Therefore it says improving the use of existing antibiotics is critical to curb the further spread of antimicrobial resistance. It says its new guidelines will help prescribers and health workers select the right antibiotic for the right infection, thereby protecting endangered antibiotics. (VOA)