Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights

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  • The premise of sexual reproductive health and rights is that all people are entitled to a state of wellbeing – physical, mental and social – in all matters related to sexuality and reproduction. It implies that people are able to have a safe and satisfying sex life, are able to reproduce, have the freedom to decide if and when to have children, and are able to decide how many to have.

    Ensuring sexual and reproductive health requires that people have:

    - Access to accurate information
    - Access to safe, effective, affordable and acceptable methods of contraception
    - The ability to protect themselves from, as well as treat sexually transmitted infections
    - Access to services to support a fit pregnancy, safe delivery and healthy baby

  • It begins with education…

    Sexual and reproductive health is about much more than just pregnancy and birth. It begins with education. Ensuring access to health information is a key building block. This is why we support countries to build awareness through interventions such as:

    • Peer support and counseling networks for youth and adolescents
    • Life skills education for adolescents which includes comprehensive sexuality education
    • Preventing HIV infection and other sexually transmitted infections among women of reproductive age through the health care system
    • Providing male and female condoms through community-based prevention efforts
    • Community groups that use drama to teach lessons about AIDS
  • Theater as a powerful tool to prevent HIV

    Actors Vanessa (left) and Alex perform in a play about a girl who loses a dear friend to HIV. Among Garifuna populations living in Honduras, plays like these are a popular and effective way of communicating messages about sensitive topics such as HIV, and often generate heated discussions afterwards. “Audiences have been very accepting,” says Vanessa. “I can really feel the change among youth.” The Global Fund supports the organizing of these events, the distribution of condoms, as well as the training that enables actors to deliver HIV prevention messages as effectively as possible.

  • Sexual and reproductive health services

    Comprehensive sexual health is for everyone. Sexual and reproductive health services should address the needs of both men and women, and include:

    • Reproductive health services, including:
      • patient education
      • contraception counseling and management
      • diagnosis and treatment of sexually transmitted infections
    • Prevention, treatment and care for victims of gender-based violence addressing both mental and physical needs
    • Voluntary male medical circumcision
    • Screening for cervical cancer
    • Antenatal care which includes:
      • Intermittent preventive care for malaria
      • The role of skilled birth attendants
      • Education on healthy behaviors such as breastfeeding
  • Pregnancy and birth

    Reproductive health problems are a leading cause of sickness and death among women – and girls – of childbearing age, particularly in developing countries. Pregnancy makes women more vulnerable to malaria, for example, so one effective strategy is to provide insecticide-treated nets through antenatal care visits, and to ensure the availability of intermittent preventive treatment for malaria to pregnant women.

    It is also the reason why treatment for HIV is being integrated into antenatal care services . Under a strategy known as “Option B+”, which was piloted in Malawi and has since been adopted by a large number of countries, every HIV-positive pregnant woman is immediately put on treatment for life. This not only ensures the health of the mother, but is a key step in preventing the transmission of HIV from the mother to the child.

    Antenatal care is a critical link in a country’s health care system. In many countries, there is a strong need to ensure that the quality of antenatal care is improved, and that it is available and accessible to all. There is also a need to educate and encourage women to seek out health care during their pregnancies.

  • A journey of motherhood | UNICEF and the Global Fund

    For over two years, UNICEF and the Global Fund followed six women living with HIV throughout their pregnancies in South Africa and Malawi, two countries hit very hard by HIV. Here are their journeys of delivering healthy babies free of HIV.
  • Gender equality

    Issues of sexual and reproductive health cannot be separated from issues of gender equality. Physiologically, women are more vulnerable to HIV than men, but this vulnerability is exacerbated by gender inequality, which often prevents women from accessing information or from controlling their own reproductive health. Gender inequality is also a driver of gender-based violence, which is a cause and a consequence of HIV infection for women and girls. And cumulatively, the failure to address these issues is an important driver of poverty. There is a need to address the specific vulnerabilities of adolescent girls in high HIV endemic settings. There is also a need to mention their vulnerability to TB.

  • Integration of health services

    While the Global Fund’s mandate is to address disease-specific issues, we are, increasingly, looking for way to integrate interventions for HIV, TB and malaria with services for reproductive and sexual health care. The integration of services means providing a continuum of care including both prevention and treatment interventions not only over time but also across different levels of a health system. Integration is essential for:

    • Improving access to health services
    • Improving the quality of care
    • Improving health coverage rates (particularly for key populations)
  • Key populations

    Increasingly, the three diseases are becoming concentrated among key populations – the groups who are most likely to be affected are the very same groups that are least likely to access services due to stigma, discrimination and criminalization.

    This is particularly true for HIV. This is why we work with countries to ensure that key populations such as transgender women, sex workers, and people who inject drugs (and their partners) have access to lifesaving services, including information and services for sexual and reproductive health.

  • Innovative partnerships

    The Global Fund works closely with other agencies to encourage the integration of sexual and reproductive health issues into health care services. In recent years, we have signed agreements with the World Bank, UNICEF and UNFPA to this end.

    We are working with UNICEF to encourage countries to include interventions to address maternal health into HIV and joint TB/HIV programs. This could include, for example, iron supplements, tetanus vaccinations or syphilis screening during antenatal visits. We are also working with UNICEF and UNFPA to strengthen supply chains in order to ensure that essential medicines and other commodities are available. And the Global Fund has been working closely with partners on the development of the Global Financing Facility, which will support efforts to end preventable maternal, newborn, child and adolescent deaths.

    The Global Financing Facility is already at work in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania. The Global Fund continues to work closely with countries to assist them in designing programs that address the specific needs of their populations, particularly the special needs of women and girls.

  • Sex workers and HIV: Safer sex for all

    The “Centro de Atención ITS Zona 3” clinic in Guatemala City sees, on average, 70 patients every morning. They provide visitors – most of whom are female sex workers – family planning services as well as testing for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. Key populations such as sex workers are at higher risk of getting infected with HIV. Thanks to Global Fund support, thousands of female sex workers in Guatemala have been tested for HIV, and thousands more have been reached with HIV prevention programs.

  • Adolescence and sexual health

    Investing in adolescent health is investing in a country's future. We want to help countries leverage the investment they're making in maternal and child health by supporting them to continue care through adolescence. While adolescence is generally a period of good health, this population does face unique health issues.

    We need adolescent-friendly programs that offer comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services and promote healthy practices. These programs need to reach adolescents both in and out of school as well as in their communities.

  • Learn more about some of the programs that support women and girls.

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