Bringing Reproductive Health Providers to the Fight Against AIDS


As this conference demonstrates,
the global AIDS community has been undergoing a paradigm shift in thinking
about AIDS — from a short-term emergency to a long-term challenge requiring
sustained effort. In large part, this means renewing a focus on HIV
prevention as evidenced by the call to action released August 6 in the
Lancet
.

Embedded within the call to
action is an increased focus on the need for linkages between HIV prevention
and sexual and reproductive health services, especially when it comes
to reaching women and girls at risk of HIV infection. Just released
UNAIDS data show that more women than men are living with HIV in Africa,
and new infections are relentlessly increasing in women — especially
young women — in every region of the world. But the call to action
published in the Lancet could be much more explicit on the question
of what must be done to provide girls and women with the services and
information they need to be safe from infection.

In a nutshell, it’s about
taking advantage of what’s already in place and what people are already
using. The call to action points directly to the need to take advantage
of long-established reproductive health services that today reach millions
of women and young people in developing countries who are at the center
of the global HIV/AIDS pandemic. By virtue of their experience in providing
a range of services — including, sometimes, HIV services — reproductive
health service providers could make a significant contribution in closing
the gap in HIV prevention. They have the capacity to provide:

  • HIV prevention information
    and counseling, including information on correct and consistent condom
    use and counseling for couples who want to become pregnant where one
    partner is HIV-positive;
  • HIV testing for
    sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, and referral for HIV
    treatment when necessary;
  • Care before and
    during pregnancy, including referral for prevention of mother-to-child
    transmission services for HIV-positive women;
  • Screening for violence
    against women and appropriate care and support; and
  • Services that put
    women and girls at the center of prevention.

Billions of women and girls
worldwide are HIV-negative. They have the right to stay negative. The
world, including global agencies and national governments, cannot afford
to miss the opportunities to strengthen HIV prevention by linking sexual
and reproductive health and HIV services.

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