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A Year of Achievement for Cuban Healthcare

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The 56TH year of the Cuban Revolution, 2015, has been a year of more inspirational achievements in health, education and internationalism — despite the ongoing US blockade.

In June, Cuba became the first country in the world to receive validation from the World Health Organisation (WHO) to successfully achieve the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis.

Given the global scale of the HIV/Aids epidemic, where an estimated 1.4 million women living with HIV become pregnant each year, the potential global health impact is phenomenal if the world can learn from Cuba.

The WHO said: “Eliminating transmission of a virus is one of the greatest public health achievements possible. 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.”

This year also saw the largest contingent of health workers who were fighting the Ebola outbreak in west Africa return home after completing their successful missions.

These world-leading achievements are from a very long list of Cuban healthcare accolades — and are a testament to the Cuban revolution and its people.

Cuba has created a world-class healthcare system and is at the forefront of biotechnology and medical research, despite being under blockade for over half a century, which prevents access to many crucial medicines and equipment.

According to the World Bank, the United States spends almost 20 times what Cuba spends per head per year ($8,553 to $431) on healthcare and yet Cuba has a lower infant mortality rate than the US and a similar life expectancy.

If the US had the same infant mortality rates as Cuba, it would save thousands of US children’s lives each year.

Cuba’s achievements clearly go beyond simple statistics and are a product of its socialist system. How society is organised, for whose benefit is public spending and the goal of a healthy, educated population all need to be considered.

The fundamental difference is that in the United States, healthcare spending funds huge profits for a wide range of companies that profiteer along the supply chain of the created health sector market.

Cuba, by contrast, has a centrally planned system where different public-sector departments work highly effectively with one another, in pursuit of the public health of its people, rather than a pursuit of profit.

Cuba’s vaccine development continues to be among the best in the world. Cimavax is a lung cancer vaccine that can suppress the growth of tumours in the lungs allowing for a stable stage of the illness, prolonging life.

The Molecular Immunology Centre of Havana, a Cuban state-owned organisation, is the creator of Cimavax and has also developed vaccines for meningitis B, hepatitis B and dengue fever. These drugs are free and universally available for patients in Cuba.

Cimavax has been available in Cuba for several years, but…