Six Caribbean nations have officially eliminated mother-to-child HIV transmission.
The achievement in Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Montserrat and St Kitts and Nevis have been certified by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The transmission of syphilis has also been stopped.
“This elimination is the result of our strong political commitment to public health and of making the health of mothers, children and families a regional priority,” said Timothy Harris, Prime Minister of St Kitts and Nevis.
“Over the last six years the Caribbean has succeeded in reducing new HIV infections in children by more than half.
“This is an amazing achievement given the high rates of HIV in the past, and we intend to improve on this success story even more in the future.”
The news coincided with World AIDS Day, which takes place every year on 1 December.
Carissa F Etienne, director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and WHO’s regional director for the Americas, said: “This elimination is a remarkable achievement that puts the Americas at the forefront of the global effort to ensure that no child is born with HIV or congenital syphilis.
“With political commitment, stronger health systems, and timely prevention, diagnosis and treatment, we can achieve great changes.”
Not a dream but a goal
In 2015, Cuba, another Caribbean island, became the first country in the world to receive validation from WHO for having achieved elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis.
Following that, Thailand and Belarus were also validated as having achieved dual elimination, while Armenia received validation of its elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and the Republic of Moldova was validated for the elimination of congenital syphilis.
Since the launch in 2010 new HIV infections have been reduced in the Caribbean by more than 52% among children, from 1,800 in 2010 to fewer than a thousand in 2016.
Reported cases of congenital syphilis, meanwhile, remain below the goal of having no more than 50 cases per 100,000 live births, although they have not declined since 2010, and it is likely there is underreporting of cases.
“The elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis is not just a dream; it’s an achievable goal,” said Maria Cristina Perceval, UNICEF regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean.
“Today we can say we are closer to ensuring an AIDS-free generation”.