Cuba first to ​eliminate mother-to-baby HIV transmission

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Cuba: BREAK THE CHAIN: STOP THE HIV CYCLE

Human Immunodeficiency Virus, or HIV as it is commonly known, is a deadly retro-virus that can never be eliminated completely from the body of an afflicted individual. It can be transmitted from a pregnant mother to her offspring during childbirth if adequate care is not taken.

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World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared Cuba as the first nation to eliminate mother to baby HIV transmission. Globally it is observed that there is a 15 to 45% chance of an offspring contracting the virus from its mother, however Cuba has completely eliminated peri-partum HIV through an aggressive method that combines diagnostics and treatment.

The process through which HIV is transmitted to the baby depends on the stage of pregnancy of the mother. The virus can be transmitted during pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding. Cuba has taken steps to curb the spreading of the virus during all the three stages mentioned above.

Pregnant women and their parters are encouraged to undergo diagnostic tests for HIV, Syphilis and other sexually transmitted diseases. If either partner is found to be infected, the mother is put on a course of retro-viral drugs to prevent the transmission of the virus to the baby. Cesarean Births prevent the transmission of the virus during childbirth as compared to natural child-birth as the baby is not exposed to the mothers infected blood and genital fluids. Natural childbirth may be allowed in cases where the mother has been taking suitable medications during pregnancy and if her viral load is low. Cuba has been promoting Cesarean births among HIV positive women as an effective method to stop intra-partum (during labour) HIV transmission.

It is observed that HIV infected cells replicate in breastmilk and invade the body of the child though the mucous membranes. Substitution of formula milk in lieu of breastmilk eliminates the possibility of the child acquiring HIV through breastmilk.

By observing the practices mentioned above, Cuba has effectively controlled the peri-partum spread of HIV. The fact that only two babies in Cuba were infected with HIV in the year 2013 stands testimony to the effectiveness of the approach employed by Cuba in curbing the spread of this deadly virus by breaking the infection chain.