July 25, 2014

Integration: It would be criminal not to move from rhetoric to reality

This post originally appeared on IPPF’s website here. Reposted with permission.

24 July, Melbourne: The results of the Integra Initiative research – presented at the International AIDS Conference this week – shows that integrating HIV into sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services has an important role to play in addressing the HIV epidemic. The call for integration is still being heard every day from the plenary stage but there is as little momentum to act now than when it was first mentioned 10 years ago. IPPF argues that it is high time to move beyond the empty rhetoric on integration.

Real investment and action is needed to ensure integration becomes a reality for the millions that access SRH and HIV services on a daily basis, and the millions more that would like to access these services.

The Integra Initiative was a research project – conducted by IPPF, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the Population Council – that gathered evidence on the benefits and costs of a range of models for delivering integrated HIV and sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services in high and medium HIV prevalence settings, to reduce HIV infection (and associated stigma) and unintended pregnancies.

The research findings show that integrating HIV services into existing SRH services improves HIV testing outcomes and increases consistent condom use. As it is estimated that 45 per cent of people living with HIV do not know their status and that there were 2.1 million new HIV infections in 2013, it would be criminal not to standardize an integrated service delivery approach – especially as it has also been shown that integration can also bring about efficiency gains through the better use of scare human resources for health.

As a leading provider of sexual and reproductive health services in over 170 countries, the integration of HIV sand SRH services is part of IPPF’s DNA. Since 2004 IPPF has been actively scaling up the integration of HIV services into existing sexual and reproductive health facilities. In 2013 IPPF provided 136.6 million integrated SRH and HIV services – 24.8 million (18.2%) were specifically HIV-related services.

Zelda Nhlabatsi, the Executive Director of the IPPF Member Family Life Association of Swaziland, said, “Through integration, we are working to make our services truly people centred – meeting the varied SRH and HIV needs of all our clients.” 

Jon Hopkins, Senior HIV officer for IPPF said “The Integra findings show that ensuring client choice is key and a true ‘one -stop shop’ should be shaped around what the client needs and wants. This means regardless of whether you are someone living with HIV, an adolescent girl,  a man who has sex with other men, or whether you choose to be a sex worker – integrated SRH and HIV services mean that your broad SRHR needs are met.”

For more information or interviews please contact Tia Jeewa (tjeewa@ippf.org)
A detailed media briefing is available on Integra findings on request.

Quotes from Integra Initiative:

Client perspective: “I would have loved to get them all [SRH and HIV services] in a single visit, because I usually have transport problems (fare money) since there is a different date for me to take the baby for immunizations, and a different date for my family planning and another date for me to take the child to the VCT. […] I have tried talking to the nurses, but I encountered a problem “. [Post-natal care client living with HIV, Swaziland]

Provider perspective: “Clients come praising you, when you meet them outside (the facility). They say that your health service has really improved because you do not keep on sending us here and there causing stigma.” [Nurse from Integrated Facility in Kenya]

HIV is primarily sexually transmitted or associated with pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding and it therefore a key part of an integrated package of SRHR services.

HIV-related stigma continues to be one the biggest drivers of the HIV epidemic – particularly among adolescents, men who have sex with men, sex workers and people who use drugs. IPPF has created a clear niche and has become the world leader in the integration of HIV into SRH services and focusing on meeting the specific SRHR and HIV needs of these key groups and people living with HIV will remain a key priority.

Founded in 1952, The International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) is both a service provider and an advocate of sexual and reproductive health and rights. The organisation is a worldwide network of 152 Member Associations active in over 170 countries.  Learn more at www.ippf.org

On 13 May 2014 IPPF launched the ‘I decide’ campaign that focuses on the right of women and girls to make fundamental, informed decisions about their lives including what happens to their bodies; who they live with; whether to have children and, if so, how many; and about their futures.

Please support us by signing our petition on www.ippf.org/idecide