Cuba is the First to Earn WHO Seal for Ending Mother-Baby HIV Transmission


Courtesy of Pan American Health Organization/WHO

Let’s give it up to Cuba for doing big things. Not only do they have beautiful cars, beautiful people and great food, but they are also breaking down major barriers in the medical world. As of June 30th, Cuba is the first country to receive what can be seen as a global seal of approval — the World Health Organization validation — for essentially eliminating transmission of AIDS from a mother to her baby.

While Cuba is not the only country to figure out how to end mother to baby HIV transmission, they are the only country who has gone through the process necessary to gain WHO approval. According to NPR, the process requires that data on transmission for at least two years and an on-site visit by WHO members examining care in all parts of the country, including remote, impoverished and underserved areas.

If a mother is infected knows she is infected with HIV (which is highly likely in Cuba), when she becomes pregnant, she begins oral antiretroviral treatment, which is proven to prevent transmission in 98 percent of cases.

At about 38 weeks into her pregnancy, if she agrees, she gives birth by cesarean section, which has been shown to reduce transmission of the disease through the birth canal. To be sure that the virus is not passed, the mother is counseled not to breastfeed her child and the child is given antiretroviral treatment for four to six weeks.

In the United States, the rate of transmission of HIV through pregnancy and childbirth is below the 2 percent mark set as the WHO standard. But the U.S. has underserved populations in inner cities and elsewhere that makes them ineligible for a WHO seal of approval.

“We visit municipalities, regions and specific sites within a country,” says Sonja Caffe, who is the regional adviser on HIV and the Pan American Health Organization. “The team looks at many areas of the country, including the lowest-performing health centers, to see if, even in those areas, good preventive care is provided. “In Cuba, it was difficult to identify the lowest coverage areas because it has very high coverage of preventive services in all areas,” she says.

Yikes! When a country that you constantly condemn calls you out on the way you discriminate against your own citizens


The disparities are here in black and white:

According to NPR, in 2009, whites had a mother-to-child AIDS transmission rate of 0.1 per 100,000, and Hispanics a rate of 1.7 per 100,000, the rate among African-Americans was 9.9 per 100,000.

“In Cuba, the health services are very close to the people. There is universal coverage, and the services are free. They don’t simply invest in hospitals. There is a philosophy of bringing health care to the people in the community,” Caffe told NPR.

Very interesting. Brava Cuba! I think the U.S. could learn a lot from these guys. Don’t you think? And if I need to be clearer.


How to treat their citizens with some damn respect when it comes to health care. There is absolutely NO reason why people in the self proclaimed “greatest country in the world” should be going broke to pay medical bills, being denied health care, and being overlooked due to income, socio-economic status, race, gender or pre-existing conditions. A healthy country is a productive country. Duh, America.

And just for fun, here are 18 cool things you didn’t know about Cuba:

Colourful buildings in Havana.

Colourful buildings in Havana.


  • Cuba is made up of the island of Cuba, Isla de la Juventud (Isle of Youth) and many smaller islands.
  • Bacardi rum was originally manufactured in Cuba. However, the brand moved to Puerto Rico after Fidel Castro’s takeover.
  • Cuba actually possesses one of the best health care systems anywhere in the world! The typical life expectancy is equal to any other progressive nation.
  • Ernest Hemingway wrote “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and  “the Old Man and the Sea” while he lived in Cuba.
  • Cuba has one of the lowest birth rates in all of the Western Hemisphere.
  • The worlds’ smallest hummingbird and smallest frog are found in Cuba.
  • The Manjuari is a fish not found anywhere else in the world.
  • There are no animals or plants in Cuba that are poisonous or lethal to humans.
  • Cuba is the 17th largest island in the world.
  • The Vinales Valley, including Havana City, Cienfuegos and Trinidad, is a World Heritage Site.
  • Christmas did not become an official holiday in Cuba until 1997
  • Cuba is the most populated country in all of the Carribean, with more than 11 million residents.
  • The favorite sport is baseball.
  • Approximately 22% of the country is protected natural areas.
  • Cuba is famous worldwide for its cigars.
  • Pico Real del Turquino is the highest peak in Cuba.
  • Very few people are allowed internet access, and violators are given a 5 year prison sentence.
  • There are so many doctors in Cuba that they are often sent to other countries that have a shortage.



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