KAMPALA, Uganda– In 2019, the world was reminded of the very high HIV incidence among women in parts of Africa. Those high levels of HIV and of sexually transmitted infections, according to the results of the ECHO Study (Evidence for Contraceptive Options in HIV Outcomes), were found among women accessing routine contraceptive services.
The report highlighted the fact that women are at the highest risk of HIV and sexually transmitted infections in Africa and women from key populations should be the focus for the most urgent action.
UGANET recognizes the need to improve and integrate HIV prevention and contraceptive services in order to reduce new HIV infections among women.
“There is need to reflect on the diverse needs of women, including adolescent girls, women with lower levels of education and key populations, who have often been neglected in contraceptive and broader sexual and reproductive health and rights programming. More contraceptive choices, additional HIV prevention choices and complementary community activities beyond facilities should be considered,” says Dorah Kiconco, UGANET’s Executive Director.
In areas where there is a high incidence of HIV and sexually transmitted infections, HIV prevention choices, including male and female condoms, and prevention counselling need to be essential elements of contraceptive services and actively promoted.
“Supporting women living with HIV to access contraception in HIV treatment clinics and providing HIV services, especially in contraception services, is a critical priority and requires committed funding for solid action,” notes Christine Kaleeba, Advocacy & Communications Associate at UGANET.
Since HIV prevention and contraceptive choices for women and girls are still not widely available, we need to ensure that the choice of girls and women are promoted by making available a wide range of HIV prevention commodities, ranging from PrEP and microbicides to user-friendly condoms. Women and girls thrive when they are given an opportunity to choose.
Lastly, with social distancing necessary as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic thereby reducing contact with health services, it is most essential that interactions with health-care providers be optimized through integrating services. The prevention of HIV and sexually transmitted infections should be the standard of care for contraception information and services provided to women at a high risk of acquiring HIV.