Mum-child HIV infection falls to 1.91%

Mum-child HIV infection falls to 1.91%

Teens, migrants focus of health campaign

Thailand will focus on teenagers and migrants to further decrease the rate of mother-to-child transmission of HIV after the country was certified by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as being free of such transmissions.

This has made Thailand the first country in Asia and second in the world, following Cuba, to be declared transmission-free. The rate of mother-to-child transmission of HIV has fallen below 2% which, according to WHO, classifies it as "free" from transmission.

The rate of HIV transmission from pregnant mothers to their newborns in Thailand declined from 10.3% in 2003 to 1.91% cent in 2015, the Ministry of Public Health said.

Global guidelines from WHO consider mother-to-child transmission of HIV as effectively eliminated for a country when the rate of transmission falls below 2%.

Independent experts convened by WHO, and supported by Unicef, UNAids and the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) backed the Thai achievement.

They confirmed Thailand has met all elimination of mother-to-child transmission criteria for both HIV and congenital syphilis in accordance with global targets.

The validation process and study took place from December 2014 to April 2016.

"Thailand's success in achieving global WHO targets in eliminating mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis belongs to everyone -- all involved organisations and partners," Public Health Minister Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn said.

However, he said making this success sustainable remained a challenge and required effective leadership and management.

"This remarkable achievement demonstrates Thailand's extraordinary commitment and leadership in responding to the global pandemic," said Thomas Davin, the Unicef representative for Thailand.

"Thailand has set an example that will inspire many other Asian countries in their efforts towards an Aids-and syphilis-free generation," Dr Davin said.

"Today, not only Thai children but also the children of migrants eligible for healthcare coverage face almost no risk of acquiring the virus from their mothers because of their access to prevention of mother-to-child transmission services."

Manopchai Thamkhantho, reproductive health expert at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, said despite achieving the global target of reducing the transmission to under 2% by 2016, more needs to be done.

He said Thailand can further eliminate the mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis by increasing access to health coverage for pregnant migrants and teenagers. A strong focus should be cast on these groups regarding mother-to-child transmission of HIV and also teenage pregnancies and eradicating the Aids stigma, he said.

WHO's Thailand representative, Daniel Kertesz, said: "Thailand is one of only a few countries that have broadened universal health care to include migrant women, making prevention of mother-to-child transmission affordable for everyone." Two decades ago, about one in three children in the world whose mothers had HIV were born with HIV, said Tatiana Shoumilina, Country Director of Unaids Thailand.

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