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Cuba has become the first country in the world to eliminate vertical transmission of HIV, the World Health Organisation announced. 

Vertical transmission (sometimes known as mother-to-child transmission) of HIV and Syphilis have been ‘eliminated’ in Cuba.

The World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Director General, Margaret Chan, said that it was “one of the greatest public health achievements possible” and an important step towards an Aids-free generation.”

Carissa Etienne, Director of the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), which partnered with the WHO on the initiative, said: “Cuba’s achievement today provides inspiration for other countries to advance towards elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis.”

The WHO defines elimination as ‘a reduction of transmission to a level that it no longer constitutes a public health problem.’ 

Globally, it is estimated that 1.4 million women with HIV become pregnant each year. Without intervention they have a 15-45% chance of passing HIV on to their child via pregnancy, labour or breastfeeding. The risk drops to around 1% anti-retrovirals are introduced.

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