Ending HIV: The contribution of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Mr. George Vaiopoulos, a 21 years old fourth-year medical student at National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. He is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


Finding a way to eradicate HIV is a goal set by Organizations, Governments, and the Medical Community. Many Campaigns worldwide intend to sensitize the public and promote safe sexual intercourses. Is it possible for humanity to achieve this goal without combining HIV with Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR)?

SRHR & HIV: Τhe Facts

To begin with, the connection between HIV and SRHR is an established fact, since this retrovirus is predominantly sexually transmitted or associated with pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding. SRHR strategies lead to several important health and well-being benefits, such as better HIV testing outcomes, more consistent condom use and improved healthcare. As a result, safe sex practices and typical testing can protect the health status of the general population and stem the HIV spread worldwide.

Ending HIV

The path to eliminate HIV is quite simple: every person should test often, treat the disease, if present, in the early stages and apply safe sexual practices. By taking antiretroviral therapy, a person living with HIV can no longer transmit the virus, which is a major step ahead. Scientists also work on the discovery of an HIV vaccine, which is a demanding procedure. In addition, people who are at high risk of HIV infection, such as sex workers, may have access to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), but its disposal is limited. As it seems, ending the virus consists of many elements, such as personal responsibility and character stability, combined with continuous effort by health specialists and Organizations. 

The Angle of a Medical Student │What should be done

Despite the SRHR and HIV linkages, there are still many actions that need to be taken. The benefits of this potential linkage are not yet presented as a priority in the healthcare sector, causing confusion when treating and consulting people. Healthcare specialists should be capable of interacting with their patients in a trustful basis, treating them without any distinction and respecting their state. Only then will they achieve aiding their patients in order to overcome their physical and mental symptoms. At the same time, we, medical students should acquire the cognitive background, appropriate linguistic skills, and compassion for our future patients. It is high time we start getting more active and aware of the social discrimination directed at people living with HIV, called stigma, and endeavor to eliminate it. In addition, voluntarism, namely through Campaigns, social events, educational opportunities and workshops, is a way of raising awareness for the importance of SRHR strategies and acquiring a new mindset on how to apply them in our daily medical practice.


To sum up, based on the conclusions made out of the data analysis, the best way forward is a linkage between the HIV and SRHR communities. It is significant, we take the initiative and work on it, to aid the society and assimilate those practices. As a result, we will create a brighter future, which will be HIV-free, non-stigma and more equal for everyone.

References

  1. http://srhr.org/
  2. https://endinghiv.org.au/ending-hiv/
  3. https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/basics/prep.html
  4. https://www.hiv.gov/hiv-basics/hiv-prevention
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5886072/
  6. https://www.hiv.gov/hiv-basics/hiv-prevention/potential-future-options/
  7. https://www.avert.org/professionals/hiv-social-issues/stigma-discrimination

About the author

George Vaiopoulos is 21 years old, Greek and a fourth-year medical student at National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. He is a member of HelMSIC (Hellenic Medical Students’ International Committee) and currently LORA. He is involved in quite a few projects and a SWG for organizing World AIDS Day. He likes talking about SCORA-related subjects and he believes that people should take every opportunity possible. He enjoys taking part on international tasks. He is interested in plastic surgery and dermatology and his motto is  ̴  Dedicated to Evolve ̴ .

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