Earlier this summer, the HIV/AIDS effort achieved a notable accomplishment that the rest of the public health community may have overlooked, missing an important learning opportunity. In June, the World Health Organization certified that Thailand achieved what was inconceivable just 20 years ago: elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV. Thailand is the first country with a generalized HIV epidemic to achieve this milestone, one that is crucial to epidemic control.
Two decades ago, the HIV epidemic was expanding in Thailand. Use of antiretroviral drugs to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission was an expensive, newly discovered intervention that had barely been implemented in areas of the world where resources were limited and the disease burden was greatest.
Despite these challenges, only 85 children were born with HIV infection in Thailand in 2015, compared to 1,000 children in 2000. This remarkable achievement resulted from a combination of essential factors:
- Strong national leadership
- A solid, functional health care system
- A commitment to extending health care services to all people in the country, including undocumented individuals