HIV. Now – more than ever
Violeta was born in La Paz, Bolivia, and was diagnosed with HIV in May 2000. “When I was younger, no one ever spoke to me honestly about anything related to sex and sexuality, so I learned most of what I know in secrecy,” says Violeta. “I think all sexual and reproductive health organizations and family planning clinics have to accept and understand fully how HIV/AIDS affects women. They should promote HIV/AIDS awareness for prevention, treatment, care and support for positive women as a matter of urgency.”
The International Planned Parenthood Federation/Western Hemisphere Region has long been a champion of quality health services for all and a staunch defendant of sexual and reproductive rights. We know, based on nearly sixty years of experience, that in order for all people to attain the highest standard of health, they must first be empowered to exercise choice in their sexual and reproductive lives and feel safe and informed in expressing their sexual identity.
In Latin America, there are an estimated 1.4 million people living with HIV/AIDS, with an estimated 92,000 new HIV infections in 2009. IPPF/WHR and its network of Member Associations strive to eliminate those unsettling statistics through the provision of high-quality information and services to all people, regardless of sexual orientation, age, economic situation, race or ethnicity through its network of Member Associations.
Key to the ongoing national and international response to the HIV epidemic is the partnership between governments, civil society and the private sector. The international community and national governments have an important role to play in scaling up access to services and partnering with both the private sector and civil society organizations to ensure comprehensive care can be provided.
This week, a UN High Level Meeting on AIDS will be held in New York to review progress and to renew commitments to ending the global pandemic.
At this meeting IPPF calls on governments to:
1: Maximize existing policy and program synergies between HIV and associated responses to improve the lives of young women and girls: Scale up the linking of sexual and reproductive health and HIV especially using prevention of mother to child programs as a key entry point to strengthen maternal, newborn and child health services and expand access to a wide range of sexual and reproductive health services.
2: Mention the ‘unmentionables’. Create enabling environments to reduce stigma and discrimination and protect human rights through the removal of punitive laws that criminalize key populations that are particularly vulnerable to HIV such as sex workers, men who have sex with men, transgender people and people who use drugs.
3: Uphold the rights of people living with HIV: HIV prevention programs need to be fit for purpose by ensuring they are rights-based, evidence-informed and support people living with HIV to live longer and healthier lives.
4: Renew the political commitment to HIV. Recognizing the long-term benefits that will accrue from investing in HIV programs, all governments and international donors need to recommit themselves to meeting the international targets, goals and accountability around HIV.
However, we risk losing the gains of the last decades without more political and financial commitment and ongoing HIV specific UN meetings.
Through these efforts we can improve the lives of people around the world like Violeta.