(CNN)The World Health Organization has congratulated Thailand as the first country in the Asia-Pacific region to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis.
It is also the first with a “large HIV epidemic” to eradicate mother-to-child transmission of the diseases. In 2014, an estimated 450,000 people were living with HIV in Thailand.
The push to eradicate mother-to-child transmission is part of a larger health strategy implemented by the Thai government, which includes universal health care for its citizens.
According to the Thai health ministry, the number of women infected with HIV each year fell from 15,000 to 1,900 — an 87% reduction — from 2000 to 2014.
The United Nations General-Assembly High-Level Meeting on Ending AIDS
begins June 8.
UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe said Thailand had transformed the lives of thousands of women and children through turning around the epidemic.
As many as 21,000 babies are still born with HIV each year in the region, according to UNICEF’s regional director, Karin Hulshof, who said Thailand’s efforts in curbing the disease could be an inspiration for its neighbors.
Last year, Cuba was the first country to receive the validation. More recently Armenia has also eliminated HIV transmission from mother to child, and the Republic of Moldova eliminated syphilis transmission from mother to child.