The Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) says 17 countries and territories in the Americas, including the Caribbean, have supplied data indicating that they may have eliminated mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis.
According to the report, “Elimination of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV and Syphilis in the Americas, Update 2015,” the 17 countries and territories reporting data consistent with dual elimination account for 34 percent of all births in the region.
The countries are: Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Bermuda, Canada, Cayman Islands, Chile, Cuba, Dominica, Montserrat, Puerto Rico, Saba, St, Kitts and Nevis, Turks and Caicos Islands, United States, US Virgin Islands and British Virgin Islands.
“The countries of the Americas have made tremendous efforts to reduce mother-to-child transmission of HIV, cutting new infections by half since 2010,” said Dr. Carissa F. Etienne, the Dominican-born PAHA director. “We can do more to protect mothers and children to achieve a generation free of AIDS.”
In 2014, PAHO said 96 percent of pregnant women in Latin America and the Caribbean had at least one prenatal check-up, 75 percent were tested for HIV, and 81 percent of those needing treatment received it.
PAHO said these figures have increased by 2 percent, 21 percent, and 45 percent, respectively, since 2010, when PAHO and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) implemented the Regional Initiative for the Elimination of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV and Congenital Syphilis in Latin America and the Caribbean to support countries with the elimination of these diseases.
If left untreated, PAHO said women living with HIV have a 15–45 percent chance of transmitting the virus to their babies during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding.
With regard to syphilis, the report said screening of pregnant women in Latin America and the Caribbean has remained stable at around 80 percent since 2010, while the percentage of women treated ranged from 50 percent to 100 percent in the countries that supplied data.
This year, the report said Cuba became the first country in the world to receive official WHO validation that it has eliminated mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis. An additional 16 countries are in a position to request validation.
PAHO said an estimated 2 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean are living with HIV, and there were about 100,000 new HIV infections in the region in 2014.