On World AIDS Day, the international community celebrated the dramatic progress that has been made in fighting the global HIV/AIDS pandemic. As a direct result of increased availability of HIV testing, counseling, and treatment, new HIV infections around the world dropped 33% between 2001 and 2012, and AIDS-related deaths have dropped 30% since 2005.
But the problem remains staggering. Some 35 million people are living with HIV/AIDS. It is the leading cause of death of women of reproductive age worldwide.
Every minute, a young woman becomes newly infected with HIV, and the vast majority of HIV infections are sexually transmitted. Women need reproductive health programs to be integrated with HIV/AIDS services, and vice-versa, for improved efficiency and effectiveness in preventing AIDS infection and unplanned pregnancy and improving maternal and child health.
The United States, through PEPFAR – the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, which principally operates in sub-Saharan Africa – has made an unprecedented commitment to helping create an AIDS Free Generation. Even though PEPFAR advocates a commitment to integrated services, PEPFAR funds cannot be used to purchase family planning commodities, nor are family planning services provided at PEPFAR sites, meaning that women cannot access a full range of contraceptives at the same site where they receive HIV/AIDS testing, counseling, or treatment. Moreover, continued U.S.-funding preferences for abstinence-based programs undermine comprehensive HIV-prevention services, including the provision of condoms.
This failure costs lives. The face of HIV in sub-Saharan Africa, the epicenter of this epidemic, is a woman. Women in this region ages 15-24 are as much as 8 times more likely than men to be HIV positive.
Integrating HIV/AIDS programs with family planning services will help women with HIV plan or prevent pregnancy, address stigma by mainstreaming service provision, and improve quality of care.
Latest posts by Eleanor Smeal (see all)
- Help Protect the Last Abortion Clinic in Montgomery, Alabama! - July 14, 2015
- Take Action for Purvi Patel! - April 7, 2015
- Sign the Card and Thank an Abortion Provider! - March 10, 2015