Better Together: Family Planning and HIV/AIDS Integration
Imagine being able to prevent hundreds of thousands of children from being infected with HIV in a single year. That’s the promise of what could be accomplished if family planning services and HIV services were integrated. In 2008 nearly half a million children were newly infected with HIV—more than 90% of them simply by being born to HIV-positive mothers. Many HIV-positive women have an unmet need for family planning services. So providing family planning services and HIV/AIDS programs together (“FP/HIV integration”) makes sense.
On December 1 (World AIDS Day 2011), I attended a congressional briefing on FP/HIV integration on Capitol Hill. The event was coordinated by the office of Congresswoman Lois Capps and co-hosted by the Global Health Council in conjunction with several other health organizations. In the welcome address, Rep. Capps stressed that FP/HIV integration is a key component of the “Getting to Zero” theme of World AIDS Day.
- FHI 360’s Dr. Kavita Nanda gave two examples of successful integrated programs in Nigeria and Kenya, which show that prevention (correct and consistent condom use) is more cost effective than treatment (ARV prophylaxis).
- Elizabeth Flanagan from the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) emphasized that mainstreaming HIV services with more widely accepted FP services could help reduce stigma against HIV, and increase the number of patients who seek treatment. She also added that in HIV discordant couples couples (where partners have different HIV status—in this case, where the man is HIV-positive and the woman is HIV-negative), FP counseling can help ensure that the woman and her infant remain HIV negative.
- Joyce Ng’anga, a capacity development officer from Liverpool VCT Kenya, declared that FP and HIV/AIDS integration in Kenya made better use of scarce human resources for health care, improved coverage and availability of services, and improved access to and uptake of key HIV and other reproductive health services.
- Theologian, physician, HIV activist, and author Dr. Peter Okaalet described the efforts of faith-based organizations to prevent mother-to-child transmission and to strengthen couples’ family planning decisions by encouraging FP clients to bring their spouses in for counseling. He went on to say that religious leaders should be more actively engaged in the fight against HIV, since they have such influence in their communities.