"Eliminating transmission of a virus is one of the greatest public health achievements possible," WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said yesterday.
"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," Chan said.

Universal health coverage, improved access to tests and increased attention to maternal care were credited with the success, defined by health authorities as fewer than 50 cases of mother-to-child transmission of syphilis or HIV per 100,000 live births.

A small number of cases are allowed to persist, despite the certification, because antiretroviral treatment to prevent mother-to-child-transmission of HIV is not 100 percent effective.

Rather, WHO and the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) define the milestone as "a reduction of transmission to such a low level that it no longer constitutes a public health problem."

Health authorities have been working in Cuba since 2010 to "ensure early access to prenatal care, HIV and syphilis testing for both pregnant women and their partners, treatment for women who test positive and their babies, caesarean deliveries and substitution of breastfeeding," said a WHO statement.

Each year, 1.4 million women living with HIV around the world become pregnant. Left untreated, they have a 15 to 45 percent chance of passing the virus to their children during pregnancy, labor, delivery or breastfeeding. But the risk of transmission is just over one percent if antiretroviral medicines are given to both mothers and children.

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