Thailand first in Asia to eliminate mother-to-child HIV, syphilis: WHO

New Delhi:  The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Wednesday validated Thailand for having eliminated mother-to-child transmission of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and syphilis, becoming the first country in Asia and the Pacific region to do so. The country also gained the tag of becoming an AIDS-free generation country. “This is a remarkable achievement for a country where thousands of people live with HIV. Thailand’s unwavering commitment to core public health principles has made elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis a reality, a critical step for rolling back the HIV epidemic. Thailand has demonstrated to the world that HIV can be defeated,” said Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia Region. The Minister of Health of Thailand was presented with the certificate of validation during a ceremony which took place in New York on the eve of the United Nations General-Assembly High-Level Meeting on Ending AIDS. Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS, said: "Thailand has turned around its epidemic and transformed the lives of thousands of women and children affected by HIV. Thailand's progress shows how much can be achieved when science and medicine are underpinned by sustained political commitment." According to WHO, Thailand’s achievement inspires its neighbours to greater action. There are still 21,000 infants who are born with HIV each year in the Asia-Pacific region,and more than 200,000 children who are growing up with HIV. Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health said that 98 percent of all pregnant women living with HIV have access to antiretroviral therapy and the rate of mother-to-child transmission of HIV has been reduced to less than 2 percent.  "In 2000, an estimated 1,000 children became infected with HIV. In 2015, the number of children who became infected with HIV through mother to child transmission was reduced to 85, a decline of more than 90 percent, a significant achievement in a country where an estimated 4,50,000 people were living with HIV in 2014," said the statement from Thailand's ministry. In India, according to UNICEF, there are 220,000 children infected with HIV/AIDS. It is approximated that every year 55,000 to 60,000 children are born to mothers who are HIV positive. Thirty percent of these children is likely to be infected themselves.