18 February 2004
New Guidelines for Including HIV Counselling, Testing in Sexual and Reproductive Health Programmes Published
(Reissued as received.)
LONDON/NEW YORK, 17 February (UNFPA) -- Addressing a critical need in responding to HIV/AIDS, the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) have published new guidelines for programme planners, managers and service providers on Integrating HIV Voluntary Counselling and Testing (VCT) Services into Reproductive Health Settings.
HIV/AIDS continues to have a staggering impact on peoples health and on the social and economic stability of nations. Voluntary counselling and testing provides an effective means of preventing HIV transmission and an important entry point for treatment of HIV-related illnesses, prevention of mother-to-child transmission, tuberculosis control, and psychosocial and legal support. Yet, all too often, VCT has been introduced in isolation from services meeting peoples overall sexual and reproductive health needs.
Why integrate VCT with sexual and reproductive health services?
Results from pilot projects in two distinct regions -- at two sites in Côte dIvoire and two in India -- indicate that integrating VCT into sexual and reproductive health services has exponential benefits: it reduces stigma associated with HIV/AIDS, strengthens awareness of healthy sexual behaviour, and increases access to and utilization of services. And the use of existing resources and infrastructure results in considerable cost savings.
The new guidelines reflect the experiences of these sites, as well as those of sites in Kenya, Rwanda and Ethiopia. They were developed in collaboration with a broad range of partners, and draw on international literature of best practices.
A stepwise approach
The guidelines provide practical information to both public and non-governmental providers on integrating VCT for HIV/AIDS within sexual and reproductive health services, using a stepwise approach that shows how to effectively plan, implement, monitor and evaluate an integrated service.
Efforts to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS cannot succeed in isolation, says the IPPFs Director-General, Steven Sinding. Only by addressing peoples sexual and reproductive health needs in a consultative and holistic manner can we work together to roll back the devastation caused by the HIV virus.
The UNFPAs Executive Director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid adds: Linking HIV prevention and reproductive health provides an opportunity to reach the millions, especially women, who are vulnerable to infection. We must overcome the stigma and discrimination that act as barriers to VCT and effective prevention.
The UNFPA, the worlds largest multilateral source of population assistance, helps developing countries meet reproductive health needs and use population data to support sustainable development.
The IPPF, the worlds largest provider of sexual and reproductive health information and services to more than 24 million people through 40,000 clinical outlets, has a key role to play in fighting the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
The guidelines are available in English, French and Spanish, and can be downloaded through the IPPF and UNFPA Web sites (www.ippf.org and www.unfpa.org).
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