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Thailand Sees Remarkable Achievement in Wiping Out Mother-to-Child HIV Spread

On June 8, Thailand is hailed by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday as the first country in Asia to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis. According to the WHO, in 2000 Thailand became one of the first countries in the world to provide free antiretroviral medication to all pregnant women diagnosed with HIV. Thailand's routine screening and universal free medication for pregnant women with HIV were crucial in stopping the virus being passed to new generations. If left untreated, mothers with HIV have a 15-45 per cent chance of transmitting the virus to their children during pregnancy, childbirth or while breastfeeding. But taking antiretroviral drugs during pregnancy significantly reduces those chances to just over one per cent. The number of babies born with HIV has dropped from 1,000 in 2000 to just 85 last year, a large enough fall for the WHO to declare mother-to-child transmission over. According to the UN agency, however, an estimated 500,000 people are still living with HIV in Thailand, making a huge challenge for AIDS response. Along with Thailand, Belarus eliminated the mother-to-child spread of HIV and syphilis, Armenia did for HIV and Moldova did for syphilis. Cuba was the first country to receive the validation of elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV in 2015. Globally, some 1,400,000 HIV-positive women become pregnant annually, and the number of newborns infected with HIV dropped from 400,000 in 2009 to 240,000 in 2013. (Source: Xinhua News. 2016-06-20)