How Thailand eliminated the transfer of HIV from mothers to babies

thailand eliminates transfer of HIV and syphilis from mother to baby

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is the virus that causes Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). HIV is transmitted by three main ways; sexual contact, exposure of infected body fluids (blood transfer, sharing sharing sharp objects) and from a mother to her baby.

Syphilis is a bacterial infection that is transmitted by sexual contact or from a mother to baby. Thailand became the first country in the Asia-Pacific region to eliminate the transfer of HIV and syphilis from mothers to babies. 

According to WHO; in the Asia-Pacific region, 21,000 babies are born with HIV virus every year. The risk of HIV transfer from mother to baby is  between 15-45% without any medical intervention but decreases to about 1% if the recommended medications and protocols are complied with.

The country's first steps against the transfer of HIV from mother to baby were to provide family education and premarital counselling, encouraging couples to be tested for HIV before having children.

In 1990–91, some large hospitals started routine screening for HIV. By 1995, national HIV prenatal prevalence had peaked at 2·3%. The Government couldn’t afford the anti-retroviral treatment with zidovudine because of the high cost. But by 1998, domestic research trials and pilot programs undertaken by the government in collaboration with WHO, UNAIDS, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, confirmed that the use of short course zidovudine could cut the risks of mother to baby transmission by half.

Thailand then started to manufacture versions of zidovudine, began a countrywide program that provided short course treatment as a routine part of prenatal care and tripled the budget for mother to baby transmission services.  In 2015, 99.6% of infants born to HIV positive mothers in Thailand received prophylactic anti-retrovirals.

On June 7, 2016, WHO certified that Thailand had eliminated mother to baby transmission of HIV and syphilis. WHO also validated Belarus for eliminating mother to baby transmission of both HIV and syphilis on June 8. The first country to eliminate mother to baby transmission was Cuba.