Rights-based integration saves lives

This article is available in English and Japanese.

Hillary Clinton

“Without an integrated SRH and HIV services for preventing HIV and unintended pregnancies, ambitious targets will not be met."

Yesterday AIDS 2012 saw the launch of a framework for integrated responses to HIV and SRH. The focus of the framework – developed by a collaborative effort of 28 agencies - is on rights-based strategies for preventing HIV in pregnant women and preventing unintended pregnancies. Without these strategies, the targets of eliminating mother to child transmission of HIV and reducing HIV-related maternal deaths will remain elusive.

On Monday Hilary Clinton talked about the need to invest more to achieve an ‘AIDS-free generation’. Bold new commitments have been made to deliver on the promise to end child and maternal death and improve health.

The framework has arrived at the right time. Yesterday at the conference, research raised concerns about pregnant women becoming HIV positive during their pregnancy. Dr Mugo from Kenya told the conference that more research is needed to understand the trend and determine the social and biomedical reasons behind this.

The implications are clear. Dr. Lynn Collins, one of the co-authors of the strategy and Technical Adviser, HIV with UNFPA, said: “Clearly, antenatal care needs to step up and do its part to prevent HIV during pregnancy when risk is twice as high. To keep our promise to halve HIV-related maternal mortality, we will have to accelerate access to antiretroviral drugs and contraceptives.”

Ruth Kundecha, the HIV focal point and community based services manager from the Family Planning Association of Malawi, said that “the framework document is important because it can help service providers to do the right things. It provides useful guidance.”

The framework is a milestone towards achieving ambitious targets towards the elimination of mother to child transmission of the virus, and signposts a clear entry point for integrating HIV and sexual health services. Dr. Collins concluded, “without integrated SRH and HIV services for preventing HIV and unintended pregnancies, the ambitious targets will not be met. The framework puts reproductive health squarely on the map of the HIV response.”