WHO, PAHO introduce new guidelines for women, girls living with HIV
The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO) last week introduced the new Consolidated Guideline on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights of Women Living with HIV to the Jamaican multisectoral HIV response group through a three-day workshop. This group included representatives from the Ministry of Health, the National Family Planning Board, Jamaican Network of Serpositives, Women's Health Network, Eve for Life, Women's Centre Foundation Jamaica, Jamaica Family Planning Association, UNICEF and ASHE.
According to the WHO, there were an estimated 17.8 million women aged 15 and older living with HIV globally in 2015, consisting of 51 per cent of all adults living with HIV. Adolescent girls and young women are particularly affected, as in 2015 they constituted 60 per cent of persons aged 15-24 years who were living with HIV, and they also accounted for 58 per cent of newly acquired HIV infections among young persons in that age group.
In Jamaica, there are an estimated 685 adolescent girls (aged 10-19) living with HIV. According to the 2012 Knowledge, Attitude, Behaviour and Practice survey, the major contributors to this 0.4 per cent prevalence rate include early sexual initiation, forced sex, transactional sex and inconsistent condom use with multiple sexual partners. These socio-economic, cultural and behavioural factors have made young women and girls three times more likely to contract HIV than boys of the same age group. Although Jamaica has been reaching many of these persons and providing treatment and care, some females are hard to reach, hence the new WHO guidelines which specifically target the female population.
TAKING NEW APPROACH
"We are taking a new approach to reaching more persons that is person-centred and over a life-course ... . A person-centred approach acknowledges women as active agents, not passive agents, of accessing sexual and reproductive health services and rights" said Dr Manjulaa Nalasimhan from WHO Geneva.
Lovette Byfield, executive director of the National Family Planning Board, said in her opening remarks, "At a time when women's rights are just now being acknowledged globally, this workshop is appropriately timed ... . Our girls are being raised in a society that dictates their sexual and reproductive health outcomes."
The WHO Consolidated Guidelines includes guiding principles to a 'woman-centred' approach, development and creating an enabling environment for women and girls living with HIV. It also includes global best practices and recommendations for the implementation of a strategic plan to integrate sexual and reproductive health rights and HIV services, maternal health services, counselling and community empowerment.