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Cuba just made a major AIDS breakthrough no other country has been able to achieve.

A successful public health initiative in Cuba could help prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission worldwide.

We're one step closer to ending the AIDS epidemic, thanks to a recent breakthrough from Cuba.

Yes, you read that right. This is big news.


Seen one of these ribbons around? It's the international symbol for AIDS treatment and prevention. Photo by Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images.

In 2010, Cuba partnered with the World Health Organization to tackle the spread of HIV and syphilis.

We hear most often about STDs spreading through needle sharing or unprotected sex, but a large percentage of HIV/AIDS cases occur when the disease is passed from mothers to their children during birth or breastfeeding.

Many of the estimated 1.4 million HIV-positive women who get pregnant each year don't even know they've been infected with HIV to begin with. And without any treatment, those women have a 45% chance of infecting their children with HIV, too.

Cuba approached this crazy-huge issue with the help of their equitable, accessible, and universal health care system.

According to The Guardian, Cuba's regional initiative provided HIV and syphilis testing for all pregnant women and their partners.

Yep. Every. Single. Cuban. Citizen.

If adorable babies like these (and their mothers) can be treated within a system like Cuba's, HIV could be a thing of the past. Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images.

In addition to testing, this care was available for each woman throughout her pregnancy and childbirth. If a woman tested positive for HIV, she was given special treatments that included medication, breastfeeding substitutes, and a cesarean delivery.

All it took was two key tactics: providing universal access to health care and focusing on disease prevention in local clinics. Then the people of Cuba started seeing incredible results.

Now, Cuba has become the first country in the world to virtually eliminate the spread of HIV and syphilis from mother to child.

When the World Health Organization announced this good news, they shared some amazing statistics: In the past year, there were less than 50 cases of mother-to-child-transmitted HIV for every 100,000 live births in Cuba.

Plus, more than 95% of HIV-positive Cuban women now know their HIV status and have access to antiviral drugs. Whoa.

The rest of the world can do what Cuba did. But without universal, equitable, and accessible health care systems, it will be a slower process.

Cuba gets a lot of press for their health care system, which is generally great despite the country's economic disparities. This is yet another example.

But there's some good news for everyone else in the world, too.

Like this statistic, which also comes from the World Health Organization: As of 2013, more than half of HIV-positive pregnant women in low- and middle-income countries around the world were able to get the medications they needed to protect their children from HIV. ("More than half" might not sound like a lot, but with an estimated 35 million adults and children living with HIV, that's a pretty big group.)

And even better, "The number of children born annually with HIV has almost halved since 2009 — down from 400,000 in 2009 to 240,000 in 2013."

With that, we're one step closer to an AIDS-free generation.

After years of social movement toward ending the stigma around AIDS and increasing prevention, we may be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Photo by Dubyangshu Sarkar/Getty Images.

Despite significant political and economic struggle, Cuba has revealed two important pieces in what had previously seemed like an impossible puzzle. Focusing on prevention and providing universal health care as a human right brings us one step closer to potentially putting an end to the transmission of a deadly disease.

The United Nations even has a plan for scaling this incredible initiative to the rest of the world, too. I can't wait to see what happens.

Leah Menzies/TikTok

Leah Menzies had no idea her deceased mother was her boyfriend's kindergarten teacher.

When you start dating the love of your life, you want to share it with the people closest to you. Sadly, 18-year-old Leah Menzies couldn't do that. Her mother died when she was 7, so she would never have the chance to meet the young woman's boyfriend, Thomas McLeodd. But by a twist of fate, it turns out Thomas had already met Leah's mom when he was just 3 years old. Leah's mom was Thomas' kindergarten teacher.

The couple, who have been dating for seven months, made this realization during a visit to McCleodd's house. When Menzies went to meet his family for the first time, his mom (in true mom fashion) insisted on showing her a picture of him making a goofy face. When they brought out the picture, McLeodd recognized the face of his teacher as that of his girlfriend's mother.

Menzies posted about the realization moment on TikTok. "Me thinking my mum (who died when I was 7) will never meet my future boyfriend," she wrote on the video. The video shows her and McLeodd together, then flashes to the kindergarten class picture.

“He opens this album and then suddenly, he’s like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God — over and over again,” Menzies told TODAY. “I couldn’t figure out why he was being so dramatic.”

Obviously, Menzies is taking great comfort in knowing that even though her mother is no longer here, they can still maintain a connection. I know how important it was for me to have my mom accept my partner, and there would definitely be something missing if she wasn't here to share in my joy. It's also really incredible to know that Menzies' mother had a hand in making McLeodd the person he is today, even if it was only a small part.

@speccylee

Found out through this photo in his photo album. A moment straight out of a movie 🥲

♬ iris - 🫶

“It’s incredible that that she knew him," Menzies said. "What gets me is that she was standing with my future boyfriend and she had no idea.”

Since he was only 3, McLeodd has no actual memory of Menzies' mother. But his own mother remembers her as “kind and really gentle.”

The TikTok has understandably gone viral and the comments are so sweet and positive.

"No the chills I got omggg."

"This is the cutest thing I have watched."

"It’s as if she remembered some significance about him and sent him to you. Love fate 😍✨"

In the caption of the video, she said that discovering the connection between her boyfriend and her mom was "straight out of a movie." And if you're into romantic comedies, you're definitely nodding along right now.

Menzies and McLeodd made a follow-up TikTok to address everyone's positive response to their initial video and it's just as sweet. The young couple sits together and addresses some of the questions they noticed pop up. People were confused that they kept saying McLeodd was in kindergarten but only 3 years old when he was in Menzies' mother's class. The couple is Australian and Menzies explained that it's the equivalent of American preschool.

They also clarified that although they went to high school together and kind of knew of the other's existence, they didn't really get to know each other until they started dating seven months ago. So no, they truly had no idea that her mother was his teacher. Menzies revealed that she "didn't actually know that my mum taught at kindergarten."

"I just knew she was a teacher," she explained.

She made him act out his reaction to seeing the photo, saying he was "speechless," and when she looked at the photo she started crying. McLeodd recognized her mother because of the pictures Menzies keeps in her room. Cue the "awws," because this is so cute, I'm kvelling.

A simple solution for all ages, really.

School should feel like a safe space. But after the tragic news of yet another mass shooting, many children are scared to death. As a parent or a teacher, it can be an arduous task helping young minds to unpack such unthinkable monstrosities. Especially when, in all honesty, the adults are also terrified.

Katelyn Campbell, a clinical psychologist in South Carolina, worked with elementary school children in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting. She recently shared a simple idea that helped then, in hopes that it might help now.

The psychologist tweeted, “We had our kids draw pictures of scenery that made them feel calm—we then hung them up around the school—to make the ‘other kids who were scared’ have something calm to look at.”



“Kids, like adults, want to feel helpful when they feel helpless,” she continued, saying that drawing gave them something useful to do.

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It can be hard to find hope in hard times, but we have examples of humanity all around us.

I almost didn't create this post this week.

As the U.S. reels from yet another horrendous school massacre, barely on the heels of the Buffalo grocery store shooting and the Laguna Woods church shooting reminding us that gun violence follows us everywhere in this country, I find myself in a familiar state of anger and grief and frustration. One time would be too much. Every time, it's too much. And yet it keeps happening over and over and over again.

I've written article after article about gun violence. I've engaged in every debate under the sun. I've joined advocacy groups, written to lawmakers, donated to organizations trying to stop the carnage, and here we are again. Round and round we go.

It's hard not to lose hope. It would be easy to let the fuming rage consume every bit of joy and calm and light that we so desperately want and need. But we have to find a balance.

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