Cuba is world's first to eliminate mother-to-child HIV infection

Announcing the success of Cuba in becoming the first country to eliminate mother-to-child HIV transmission in a press release, WHO director-general Maragaret Chan said eliminating transmission of a virus was one of the greatest public health achievements possible.

"This is a major victory in our long fight against HIV and sexually transmitted infections, and an important step towards having an AIDS-free generation," she added.

The international agency's recognition was celebrated in Cuba.

"It is a historic day for the prevention of HIV and AIDS and for progress towards a generation free of this burden both nationwide and around the world," Xinhua cited Cuba's state daily Granma as saying.

"This is a celebration for Cuba and a celebration for children and families everywhere. It shows that ending the AIDS epidemic is possible and we expect Cuba to be the first of many countries coming forward to seek validation that they have ended their epidemics among children," said Michel Sidibe, executive director of UNAIDS.

An estimated 1.4 million women around the globe living with HIV become pregnant every year and without treatment, have a 15-45 per cent chance of transmitting the virus to their children during pregnancy, labour, delivery or breastfeeding, according to the WHO.

According to a WHO statement an international delegation that it and the Pan American Health Organization had sent to Cuba in March determined the country met the criteria for the designation.

The statement added that in 2013, only two children in Cuba were born with HIV and five with syphilis.

"Cuba's success demonstrates that universal access and universal health coverage are feasible and indeed are the key to success, even against challenges as daunting as HIV," Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) director Carissa Etienne said in the statement.

Cuba's communist government touts free healthcare a major achievement of the 1959 revolution, though, ordinary Cubans complain of a decline in standards since the fall of the country's former benefactor, the Soviet Union, in 1991.

The PAHO and WHO launched an effort to end congenital transmission of HIV and syphilis in Cuba and other countries in the Americas in 2010.