Saturday October 20, 2018

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

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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.

Image Credits: youthandeldersja.wordpress.com
Image Credits: youthandeldersja.wordpress.com

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.

(IANS)

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Ebola Not A Global Health Emergency: WHO

WHO advised DRC's nine neighboring countries that they were at high risk of having the disease spread into their territories

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An emergency committee convened by the World Health Organization has decided that the Ebola outbreak in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo does not constitute a public health emergency of international concern.

The WHO said Wednesday that 216 cases of Ebola and 139 deaths had been reported, and its International Health Regulations Emergency Committee said the outbreak was a matter of serious concern, especially since it is occurring in an area of conflict in eastern DRC. It said this posed problems for health workers who need to move around freely and track people who are infected with the virus and need treatment.

But the committee said that one reason it did not regard the outbreak as a global threat was that the virus had not spread into neighboring countries.

Congo,ebola
A Congolese health worker administers Ebola vaccine to a boy who had contact with an Ebola sufferer in the village of Mangina in North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. VOA

Committee Chairman Robert Steffan said the international response to the outbreak had been very good. He said WHO and other agencies had achieved quite a lot since the outbreak was declared Aug. 1. In fact, he said the disease was being brought under control in North Kivu province.

The disease is flaring up in another province, and the response is being concentrated in this area, he said, “so we do have some optimism that this outbreak, just like the one in May, will be brought under control within reasonable time.”

Steffan said the committee agreed that declaring an international emergency at this time would hinder efforts to contain the Ebola virus. He said a declaration would have implications for travel and trade, making it difficult for needed experts and supplies to access the affected areas.

Ebola, WHO
A health care worker from the World Health Organization, left, gives an Ebola vaccination to a front line aid worker who will then vaccinate people who might potentially have the virus, in Mbandaka, Congo. VOA

However, as a precaution, WHO recommended exit screenings, including at airports, ports and land crossings. But it noted that entry screenings, particularly in distant airports, would have no public health benefit and would be costly.

Also Read: North Kivu And Ituri, Congo To Welcome More Than 80,000 Children In This New School Year

WHO advised DRC’s nine neighboring countries that they were at high risk of having the disease spread into their territories, and it said it was supporting them with equipment and personnel. It said these preparedness activities were expensive and would require substantial financial support from the international community. (VOA)