This past week, Cuba has been a hot topic in the media. News about bridged U.S.–Cuba relations has taken over the news circuit. But Cuba has also recently reached a public health milestone in the fight against AIDS. Cuba has virtually eliminated HIV and syphilis mother-to-child transmission.
Health officials in the country credit a combined task force from the World Health Organization and the Pan American Health Organization. These organizations implemented programs aimed at improving prenatal care, sexually transmitted infection and HIV testing for pregnant women and their partners, treatment for mothers and babies, Cesarean section deliveries and substitutes for breastfeeding. These services were provided through a universal healthcare system to increase accessibility and affordability, two huge components of any health-related intervention program.
Worldwide, over 1.4 million women with HIV become pregnant, which if untreated, puts 15 to 45% of their babies at risk of infection at birth. However, by providing antiretroviral medicines to pregnant women and children after birth, the risk of transmission to their children can be reduced to a mere 1%. Reducing transmission rates is largely a case of improving accessibility and affordability. Through Cuba’s integration of maternal and child health programs with HIV and sexually transmitted infection programs, they can combat the problem on all fronts. By providing services through a universal health system, more women from varying income levels and geographical locations were able to take advantage of them.
The success brings hope in a long fight against HIV/AIDS. The case in Cuba is an encouraging step towards eradicating AIDS, despite not having a cure. The success also serves as an example for countries around the world to analyze and model programs after in their individual battles against the AIDS epidemic. The evidence supporting universal healthcare has gained new support from the Cuba’s success and as other countries continue to try to reduce transmission rates, they may be more compelled to imitate Cuba.
– Emma Dowd