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Thailand first Asian country to reduce mother-baby HIV transmission rates

Thailand is the first Asian country to reduce the rate of HIV transmission from mothers to newborn babies to below 2 percent. Once one of Asia's worst-hit societies, Thailand is now a model for tackling the crisis.

Thailand's mother-to-child transmission rate fell from 10.3 percent in 2003 to 1.9 percent in 2015, according to the Thai Health Ministry.

In 2000, Thailand became one of the first countries in the world to offer free antiretroviral medication to all pregnant women diagnosed with HIV, and screenings for the virus during pregnancy are also routine, the WHO said.

"This is a remarkable achievement for a country where thousands of people live with HIV," Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh, the head of WHO for Southeast Asia, said in a statement.

"Thailand has demonstrated to the world that HIV can be defeated," she added.

UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe called the achievement an important milestone in efforts to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030.

The two-percent threshold

The World Health Organization (WHO) regards rates below 2 percent as the effective elimination of that mode of transmission in the country. The rate has been confirmed by the WHO, the US Centers for Disease Control and UNICEF.

"Thailand has set an example that will inspire many

other Asian countries

in their efforts towards an AIDS and syphilis-free generation," said Thomas Davin, UNICEF Representative for Thailand.

Watch video 04:08

Aids research (24.02.2016)

Thailand leads the way

Belarus and Armenia were also declared free of mother-to-baby HIV transmissions Wednesday, but both nations have a much lower prevalence of the virus.

Cuba was the only other country to have eliminated mother-to-child transmission under the WHO's criteria back in July 2015.

There were 450,000 people living with HIV in Thailand in 2014. The country went from 100,000 HIV cases in 1990 to more than a million three years later in part due to its huge sex trade.

jbh/sms (dpa, AFP, Reuters)

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