Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights and ending HIV, one single goal

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Katherine Y. Liriano, a 6th year medical student born and raised in Dominican Republic. She 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.


Guaranteeing Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) and eliminating HIV have become global priorities requiring conjoined efforts from a political, healthcare and educational stand view. Universal sexual and reproductive health and rights was promulgated in the year 1994 at the ICPD in Cairo, Egypt (CHANGE, n.d.).

According to the Guttmacher-Lancet Commission (2018), SRHR is a state of physical, emotional, mental, and social well-being in relation to all aspects of sexuality and reproduction, not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction, or infirmity (CHANGE, n.d.). The World Health Organization defines SRHR as fundamental human rights that are currently being denied in many regions and countries worldwide. It involves many issues such as unintended pregnancies, complications of pregnancy and child-birth, unsafe abortion, gender-based violence, HIV and other STIs, and reproductive cancer (Starrs, et al., 2018).

Special emphasis has been made in HIV prevention since approximately 33 million people had died due to HIV and, until 2019, 38.0 million people were infected with it, according to WHO statistics (WHO, 2020). Prevention of other STIs is also important since they increase the risk of acquiring HIV.  So, can eradication of HIV and SRHR be achieved one without the other? I think not.

Ending HIV and SRHR are goals that must be addressed together since, as described above,  one is intrinsic to the other. We can’t talk about Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights without including an illness that has robbed more than 33 million lives to this date. Indeed, SRHR is much more than just the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases. It is about the right every individual in the world possesses to decide what to do with their bodies, when and how to do it, especially when it comes to their sexual lives. It is about eradicating stigmas, discrimination and coercion (Starrs, et al., 2018). But while doing so, people’s health must be taken care of. Hence why it is not possible to achieve SRHR without pursuing the elimination of HIV simultaneously, or on the contrary, eliminating HIV while completely disregarding SRHR. Doing either of those things would be inadequate and disreputable.

Joining both goals and efforts, has already proven to have many benefits according to the World Health Organization, including: better HIV testing outcomes, more consistent preservative use, improved quality of care, better use of human resources, reduced stigmas and discrimination, as well as improved coverage, access to and uptake of both SRHR and HIV services for vulnerable populations, including people currently living with HIV (WHO, n.d.).

There is still a lot left to achieve in terms of SRHR and HIV, especially in lower income countries. Now more than ever measures must be taken to improve the efficiency that target each of this problematics, and what better way to do so than treating both of them as one single problem.

References

CHANGE. (n.d.). Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights for All. Retrieved from CHANGE: https://srhrforall.org/what-is-srhr/

Starrs, A. M., Ezeh, A. C., Barker, G., Basu, A., Bertrand, J. T., Blum, R., . . . Ashford, L. (2018). Accelerate progress—sexual and reproductive health and rights for all: report of the Guttmacher–Lancet Commission. The Lancet, 2642-2684.

WHO. (2020, July 6). HIV/AIDS. Retrieved from World Health Organization: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/hiv-aids

WHO. (n.d.). SRHR-HIV. Retrieved from World Health Organization: https://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/topics/linkages/srhr-hiv/en/

About the author

Katherine Y. Liriano is a 6th year medical student born and raised in Dominican Republic, currently studying at the Technological University of Santiago. Katherine worked as a research assistant at the Technological University of Santiago. She is a member of the Dominican Medical Student Organization – IFMSA since November 2019.

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