Thailand first country to stop mother-child HIV transmission

Baku, June 9, AZERTAC

Thailand has become the first country in Asia to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis, the World Health Organization said.

The milestone is another step in Thailand's aggressive campaign to reduce new cases of the AIDS virus, but experts warn many other problems still exist -- including a rising rate of new HIV infections among gay men and transgender people.

The number of babies contracting HIV dropped from more than 3,000 in the late 1990s to 86 in 2015, a figure that was validated to meet WHO's criteria for elimination - mother-to-child transmission rates of less than 2 percent and fewer than 50 new infections in 100,000 births.

Cuba became the first country to reach the goal last year.

Thailand's success comes from strong prenatal care from large cities all the way to the poorest villages. Nearly all pregnant Thai women are screened for HIV, 95 percent of those who test positive are treated to prevent transmission to their babies and almost 100 percent of babies born to HIV-positive mothers are given antiretroviral drugs.

However, hundreds of thousands of migrant women, many of them working or seeking menial jobs in Thailand, are not included in the data. Many poor women from neighboring Myanmar and Cambodia do not receive any prenatal care or HIV screening while in Thailand. A 2010 Thai government report found that two to three times more migrant women were infected with HIV in certain areas of the country.

There are an estimated 2.7 million registered and undocumented male and female migrant workers in Thailand. They have limited access to the country's health care system, and many are reluctant to get tested or treated for HIV due to language barriers or out of fear they will lose their jobs or have negative interactions with police or other authority figures, according to UNAIDS.

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