Congratulations to our friends at Salamander Trust, who are among co-authors of an article titled “What will it take to achieve the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women living with HIV?” published in Women’s Health, January 2022. The article cites the ITPC’s 2020 advocacy brief Confined by COVID-19: Women and Girls, HIV and SRHR is part of the collection on women’s health in the context of HIV, and it is part of a collection on women’s health in the context of HIV, published by Sage.
What makes the article unique is that the co-authors have collated and cited materials produced by women living with HIV from around the world. Research led by women living with HIV is seldom funded. Formally recognized evidence from women’s own perspectives is patchy at best. That research gap adversely affect policies and programmes in relation to women’s rights. Thus, efforts to achieve an ethical, effective and sustainable response to the pandemic are hindered.
“For women living with HIV, we are potentially on the verge of seismic change, with strong new commitments around our SRHR from UNAIDS, the Political Declaration, the Global Fund, some encouraging signs from WHO’s and PEPFAR’s latest HIV draft strategies, and global commitments to accelerate action on gender equality, gender-based violence, SRHR and feminist movements through Generation Equality. There is also some momentum towards universal health coverage for all, including people in key populations.
So what will it take to turn this potential into reality?
As ever, it comes down to political will…Clinicians and researchers alike, we need you to do the following:
- Move beyond the top-down, disease-driven siloed, target-oriented responses, which have failed so many and which are no longer fit for purpose.
- Place women living with HIV in all our diversities, at the centre of research and prioritize our own diverse SRHR issues as these research goals.
- Ensure that all research you conduct meaningfully involves women living with HIV throughout. Check that all platforms you speak from have included women living with HIV meaningfully in their planning – and that women and their own agendas are included in the discussions.
- Ensure that all your service delivery meaningfully involves those in your care in design, delivery and accountability controls.
- Stand with women living with HIV to engage with donors and other policy influencers to turn evidence into policy – and make change happen.
- Join us in celebrating your successes once you see these new approaches flourishing.
Donors, governments and the United Nations, we need you to do the following:
- Be courageous in driving through your commitments to investing in our work, organized by us.
- Stand firm in your commitment to effecting the structural changes required to create, respect and enact the policies we want to see.
- Ensure the involvement, expertise and rights of women in all their diversity as equal partners and influencers at national level, to dispense your funds justly.
- Ensure that evaluations are guided by and fully involve women living with HIV – women who are active in their communities, have a wealth of expertise and knowledge about what works and what does not, and that this should be valued beyond being interviewed as key informants or engaged in a tokenizing way.
- Ensure safe access to SRH for all, regardless of gender identities. Fund research on SRH needs for gender minorities.
- Remember that it is in your gift to influence the future direction of millions of women’s and girls’ lives.
An effective, ethical and sustainable response to the AIDS pandemic is possible. Violence is preventable. Mental health and SRHR can be ameliorated with trauma-aware care. The power of peer support is immeasurable. Lives can change. Hope can be restored. Resilience can be built. Rights can be upheld.
The evidence is there. Together we can all do it. Let’s go.