The news that the Obama administration and Cuba will reopen embassies in each others’ countries made quite a bit of news. But almost ignored was another news report that showed that despite the crippling US-imposed embargo, that country manages to maintain a high standard not just of medical care but also of medical research.
Cuba has become the first country to eliminate the transmission of HIV and syphilis from mother to baby, the World Health Organisation has announced.
The WHO’s director general, Margaret Chan, said it was “one of the greatest public health achievements possible” and an important step towards an Aids-free generation.
Over the past five years, Caribbean countries have had increased access to antiretroviral drugs as part of a regional initiative to eliminate mother-to-child transmission.
HIV and syphilis testing for pregnant women and their partners, caesarean deliveries and substitution of breastfeeding have also contributed to the breaking of the infection chain, said the WHO.
Carissa Etienne, the director of the Pan American Health Organisation, 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.”
This follows on the heels of recent reports on Cuba’s development of a lung cancer vaccine and other medical breakthroughs.
The opening of embassies is a long overdue development and should be followed by the immediate lifting of the economic embargo on that nation and the relinquishing by the US of its control of the base at Guantanamo Bay and giving back that land to Cuba.