Advancing reproductive health and human rights for HIV-positive women

Many women living with HIV can have safe, healthy and satisfying sexual and reproductive lives, but there is still a long way to go to make this a universal reality. The new issue of the Journal of the International AIDS Society features contributions from researchers, clinicians, policymakers and women living with HIV that examine this critical issue – including new research from the UCSF Bixby Center.

  • Making cervical cancer prevention a priority for HIV-positive women: HIV and cervical cancer are related epidemics that disproportionately affect one of the most vulnerable populations in the world: women in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). HIV-positive women are at increased risk for developing cervical cancer, and an increasing number of HIV-positive women are living in LMICs with limited or no access to cervical cancer screening programs. However, cervical cancer prevention largely has been left out of sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services for HIV-positive women. Going forward, cervical cancer prevention must be considered part of the essential package of SRH services for HIV-positive women. Effective prevention programs will require a coordinated response from international policymakers and funders, national governments and community leaders. Leveraging the improvements in health care created by the response to the global HIV epidemic may be an effective way to make an impact on cervical cancer prevention for HIV-positive women.
  • Services for HIV-affected women and couples attempting pregnancy: HIV-affected women and couples often desire children, and many accept the risk of HIV transmission in order to attempt pregnancy. Current global efforts to integrate HIV and reproductive health services are a prime opportunity to include strategies to reduce the risk of HIV transmission for couples attempting pregnancy. Providers, clinics and programs that serve HIV-affected women and couples who want children should therefore incorporate comprehensive reproductive health counseling, as well as focus on reducing the stigma of pregnancy and childbearing women people living with HIV. Increased efforts also are needed to engage men in reproductive decision-making.

Now is the time to maximize existing tools and programs – and create new ones that are adaptable to many settings and situations – in order to make an impact on cervical cancer, pregnancy and a range of other important issues for women living with HIV worldwide.