The XIXth International AIDS Conference gets underway on July 22nd in Washington DC. It has been titled “Turning the Tide Together”. The International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF – the world’s largest family planning movement) has its own particular take on that title.
IPPF has been at the forefront of the movement to integrate HIV prevention, treatment care and support into wider sexual and reproductive health services. By taking HIV work into standard SRH facilities, IPPF has substantially increased levels of access to HIV services, and has begun to reach communities previously unable to access such assistance. It’s assistance which is often life-saving. Access is the fundamental principle which underpins all of the organisation’s HIV work.
HIV integration is not without its challenges, and needs to be context specific to be best targeted to meet the sexual health and HIV needs of different communities.
So for IPPF, the “together” in the conference’s “Turning the Tide Together” theme is as much about delivering SRH and HIV services together, as it is about bringing together governments, civil society, policy makers, clients, providers, scientists, researchers, journalists, pharmaceutical companies and politicians. It is about providing good quality services in a context of health systems and policies that enable that to happen.
There are compelling figures and stories which prove the impact and effectiveness of IPPF’s approach: in Burkina Faso, 97% of pregnant women who used IPPF’s Member Association’s facilities for their first ante-natal care check-up were counselled and tested for HIV. 8.3% tested positive. Had HIV services been delivered separately in another facility, these women might never have gained access to services protective of both their health and the health of their child. In Swaziland, one of the countries with the highest HIV prevalence in the world, the HIV services provided by IPPF's Member Association have increased six-fold over the last five years.
“As a provider living with HIV it is easy for me to identify with my clients’ challenges and they find it easier to talk to me as I share my life experience and how I have overcome some of the challenges through living a healthy life and receiving continuous, care, treatment and support.” Lungile, adherence counsellor and lab technician, Family Life Association of Swaziland (IPPF’s local Member Association).
In India, the Family Planning Association has been providing stigma-free services to men who have sex with men, their partners (male and female), people who use drugs and transgender people. Their community led health promotion initiatives have led to an increase in condom use and outreach to key communities vulnerable to HIV in India.
In short, integration can save lives.
At the London Summit on Family Planning the Gates Foundation and a number of nations committed over $2.6bn to meeting the unmet need for contraception of 120m women worldwide by 2020. IPPF has made a major commitment to tripling the number of women’s and girls’ lives it saves by that year. The Federation sees full SRH and HIV service integration as a critical component if it is to achieve that ambitious target.
IPPF devotes huge energy and resources to the practical delivery of HIV services through Member Associations operating in over 170 countries. But it also plays a critical role in advocating for the reversal of discriminatory policies and programmes, and personal and political prejudices which stigmatise people living with HIV.
Recent and ongoing initiatives include the Criminalise Hate, Not HIV campaign (set up to fight against the criminalisation of HIV transmission, non-disclosure and exposure, as well as laws that can fuel vulnerability to HIV) and The People Living with HIV Stigma Index (a joint initiative that has developed a tool to measure and detect changing trends in relation to stigma and discrimination experienced by people living with HIV). IPPF is also the coordinator of the steering group for the David Kato Vision and Voice Award (first awarded in 2012), which commemorates the life and work of David Kato, the murdered human rights activist.
At the conference, IPPF representatives will be running satellite events (particularly relating to youth) ranging from the intriguingly entitled “The Politics of Condoms: Cock-ups, Controversies and Cucumbers”, through to a live webcast, a major session on sexuality, pleasure and body image, and an “I (heart) Being A Girl” tea party.
Washington DC will be alive with representatives of some of the HIV community’s most influential campaigners, advocates and service providers. IPPF, one of the most active organisations in the field, will be proud to stand alongside them.