Promoting linkages and synergies for sexual reproductive health rights and HIV/AIDS

The recent commitment by the international community to intensify linkages between SRHR and HIV/AIDS at the policy and programme levels builds upon the Glion Call to Action (2004) and the New York Call to Commitment (2004). These have expressed the concern that too many policies programmes and initiatives addressing either SRHR of HIV/AIDS have failed to exploit potential linkages; as a result, global efforts have been less effective than would otherwise have been the case.

The United Nations General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS (UNGASS 2001 and 2006) emphasized that investment in sexual and reproductive health is a major foundation for HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment. The incorporation of SRHR into national strategies as a prerequisite for attaining the MDGs expressed a commitment to achieving universal access to reproductive health by 2015, as a new target under MDG 5 and to promoting gender equality and ending discrimination against women.

The call for joint policies and programming for SRHR and HIV/AIDS, particularly in the light of these commitments to universal access to (comprehensive HIV/AIDS services by 2010 and to reproductive health by 2015), recognizes that such access can only be achieved through strengthened health systems. Sexual and reproductive health services (SRH) include family planning, maternal and infant care, prevention and management of STI and the prevention of gender based violence. HIV/AIDS services involve prevention measures as well as treatment, care and support. Several main areas of linkage arise between the two, such as improving condom supplies, integrating HIV counselling, testing and care into SRH services especially for maternal health and PMTCT, and integrating SRH information and services into HIV/AIDS programmes.

The International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo in 1994, established the concept of comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). However, due to the dramatic development of the AIDS pandemic the targeted interventions that addressed the disease overlooked the natural linkages between HIV/AIDS and SRHR.

The changing aid environment and new aid modalities present opportunities for stronger operational linkages between various programmes. Thus intensive efforts with a full range of partners, including civil society and affected populations, at national, bilateral and multilateral levels are needed to promote the development of comprehensive health sector response to SRHR and HIV/AIDS. These are all part of the commitment to universal access. German development cooperation is committed to the integration of measures for HIV/AIDS and SRHR in its health and development efforts, which are guided by cross-cutting principles of rights-based, gender sensitive and multi-sectoral approach.

Ishdeep Kohli-CNS