Integrate Sexual Health Services

Toronto Star - Letter to the Editor |

Abstinence-only message misguided

This article underlines the urgent need to integrate HIV/AIDS services into sexual and reproductive health programs.

Latin America and the Caribbean are often overlooked when addressing the global HIV pandemic. Yet, the Caribbean continues to have the world's second highest prevalence rate of HIV after after sub-Saharan Africa. In Latin American and the Caribbean the epidemic increasingly affects women. At one antenatal site in Colombia, 72 per cent of women who tested HIV positive reported being stable in relationships, proving that even faithful women are at risk.

Additionally, the ABCs of HIV/AIDS prevention (abstinence, be faithful, and condom use,) do not protect women who are victims of sexual violence and coercion. A more holistic approach to HIV prevention must integrate gender equity and reproductive and sexual rights. This week's International AIDS Conference offers a timely opportunity for world leaders and health advocates to affirm the need for comprehensive policies that focus on the rights of all women.

Carmen Barroso, Regional Director, International Planned Parenthood Federation/Western Hemisphere Region, New York, N.Y.

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