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In One Place: Why We Need to Integrate Family Planning and HIV/AIDS Services

In One Place: Why We Need to Integrate Family Planning and HIV/AIDS Services

NOTE: This is a guest post from Danielle Zielinksi, Communications Specialist at Population Action International.

Naomi Daka smiles and swings her arms, singing along with the other women in a back room of the Chawama Health Centre. It’s the end of her weekly meeting of her support group, “Mothers to Mothers.”

When Naomi was first diagnosed with HIV, she thought her life was over. But through counseling and the support of other women like her, she is not only leading a full and productive life, but has since had two healthy children who are HIV-negative.

“The counselors told us that being HIV positive is not the end of everything. You can do whatever you want and have a chance to excel in life,” Naomi says. “I did not get worried falling pregnant because I planned… I was taught on how I can take care of myself if I wanted to be pregnant.”

Unfortunately, many women aren’t as lucky as Naomi. Sixty percent of the 22 million people living with HIV in Sub-Saharan Africa are women. And 53 million women in this region want to avoid pregnancy but cannot access contraception.

For too many, accessing health care is a challenge. Women wake up early to line up at clinics as early as 4 am. They may travel for hours just to reach a health center, or wait all day to receive care. They miss work, and spend time away from their families. And most of them don’t even get everything they need. When it comes to HIV and reproductive health services, it’s rare that a woman can find both in the same place.

Voluntary contraception is an essential HIV prevention tool. Despite this knowledge, contraceptives are not widely available in HIV/AIDS settings and obstacles remain for those who wish to access them.

Integrating reproductive health and HIV/AIDS services–providing both services under one roof–makes it easier for women to get what they need. It also enables health care providers to comprehensively address the needs of their clients. Delivering these services together is central to saving lives by ensuring universal access to reproductive health and HIV prevention, treatment, care and support.

Naomi’s story is an example of what can happen when integration works. When she decided she wanted to stop having children, the information and support she got from other HIV-positive mothers was crucial. In a meeting about family planning, the women discussed different methods of contraception–pills, injectables, implants, and IUDs (intrauterine devices). For Naomi, knowing how the methods interacted with HIV treatment was critical to making the right choice for her. She opted for the “loop” contraceptive, an IUD which lasts for 12 years.

“I decide to have a loop because I know that for women who are HIV-positive, the tablets do not work effectively as it is not stronger than the ARVs,” she said. “I talked with my husband. We do not need to have a lot of children, but have the ones we can manage to support.”

In One Place shows why integrating family planning/reproductive health and HIV/AIDS is a priority for women and young people in sub-Saharan Africa. Through the voices of women in Zambia living with HIV, the film documents how stand-alone, separate health services can result in a range of missed opportunities, poor health outcomes and lost productivity.

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Photo: Through counseling and the support of other women like her, Naomi has learned not only to live with HIV, but to have two healthy, HIV-negative children since her diagnosis. Credit: Population Action International

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10:52PM PDT on Jul 29, 2012

If you have been diagnosed with HIV then your immediate reaction might be to feel denial or depression. However, you will soon realize that you do not have to maintain such a bleak outlook on life. There are many HIV dating sites like PositiveFishes.c o m where hiv positive singles like you can meet many more people who share the same problem. You'll find it very easy to get a fulfilling social life as long as you remember to follow certain HIV dating tips.

3:34PM PDT on Jul 20, 2012

Great idea. Are the Repubs going to be against hivaids services too?

12:18PM PDT on Jul 20, 2012


9:44AM PDT on Jul 20, 2012

They should be more careful with what they do and not rely so much on services.

6:53AM PDT on Jul 20, 2012

Article says...And 53 million women in this region want to avoid pregnancy but cannot access contraception.

Well hells bells, is the answer to this really that difficult? Who would NOT want them to have access to birth control. Look at THAT why don't you.

And John M practices abstinence too right? NOT. Its always the men who want to tell a woman what she can and cannot do with her body.

4:59AM PDT on Jul 20, 2012

Hey, I got the perfect name for such a place: Planned Parenthood.

4:59AM PDT on Jul 20, 2012

With abstinence,nothing else is required!..

12:32PM PDT on Jul 19, 2012

perhaps this would also help in Eastern Europe

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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