To mark the annual International Maternal Health and Rights day, International Community of Women living with HIV (ICW) applauds The World Health Organization (WHO) for their leadership in launching Consolidated Guideline on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) of women living with HIV.
In line with the day’s action call to break barriers to safe motherhood, The guideline whose foundation is the point at which many women become aware she is living with HIV gives guidance on key issues for providing comprehensive SRHR-related services and support for women living with HIV and will provide much needed support to front-line health-care providers, program managers and public health policy-makers around the world to better address the sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) of women living with HIV.
Global data suggests that adherence and loss to follow up among women living with HIV particularly during postpartum period continues to expose infants to HIV acquisition and that mother to child transmission of HIV at six weeks was recorded at 5% and rose to 14% by the end of breastfeeding period. Additionally an estimated 225 million women in developing countries desire to delay or stop childbearing but can’t access any method of contraception and 90% of the complications that lead to maternal deaths can be avoided.
Despite being one of the indicators for ensuring reduced numbers of vertical transmission of HIV from mother to child within the Global plan for elimination of mother to child transmission nearly half of the 21 priorities did not meet their need for family planning among 25% of all married women.
Lack of access to information, reduced spaces for autonomy to make informed choices, Human Right violations, Gender Based Violence stigma and discrimination stemming from cultural practices and unfavorable legal frameworks continue to result in lack of enabling environments for uptake and retention to SRH services. Additionally lack of clear segregated global and country data on progress of critical services continues to hamper planning and monitoring of desired outcomes for Sexual and Reproductive health among women and girls but particularly among women and girls living with HIV. Connecting maternal health care with family planning and HIV services provides comprehensive sexual and reproductive health but helps to ensure that women, girls, and their families receive the highest standard of sexual and reproductive health.
ICW is excited that in the whole of guidelines development process our membership were involved and found opportunities for engaging women living with HIV in sharing their values, preferences and recommendations that were instrumental in shaping the guidelines development.
One of our long time members Alice Welbourn the Director of Salamander Trust has this to say about the process, “It was such a great experience being invited by WHO to take part in the new Guideline development process which has at last really placed women living with HIV Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights from our own viewpoints on the global map; thereby showing what huge and similar challenges we face around the world in relation to these multiple and complex issues - and also shows our immense resilience in the face of all this adversity. The process has proved conclusively that we as women living with HIV in all our diversities around the world can also be active participants in our own research on these critical SRH and Rights issues which affect our lives so greatly.” To read more about the process see here
ICW looks forward with hope to the next steps in this process to ensure effective rolling out and implementation processes continue to meaningfully engage women and girls living with HIV at country and grassroots level. We will work with our partners and stakeholders to engage in advocacy efforts to secure and sustain funding that will remain useful in implementation of the guidelines. ICW will continue to strengthen our community specific monitoring for effective service delivery and promoting rights based accountability towards optimum and desirable sexual and reproductive health for all women and girls living with HIV.
Join the conversation online by following the hash tag #intlMHDay. For more information on how to participate in the #intlMHDay Twitter Chat relay organized by CHANGE on April 11 starting 9am EST click here.
 Consolidated guideline on sexual and reproductive health and rights of women living with HIV. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2017. Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO.
UNAIDS 2016, Global Plan progress report.
UNFPA 2016, Factsheet; Family planning/Contraception