Started By
Rati Bishnoi
July 23, 2015

How can strategies specifically address the family planning needs of young women living with HIV?

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Comment By
Jacqui Stevenson
July 23, 2015

Young women living with HIV have a right to access safe and effective family planning, delivered in a rights and choice based framework. Often, however, this right is not upheld, with young women living with HIV experiencing stigma, discrimination and judgment, misinformation or a restriction of choice. This can lead to a restriction of choice and access, and abuses including the forced and coerced sterilisation of women living with HIV. Realising the sexual and reproductive rights of young women living with HIV can only be achieved through the full and meaningful involvement of young women living with HIV in the designing, implementing and evaluating of strategies, programmes and interventions delivering family planning.

ATHENA is a global policy partner in the Link Up project - a five country project which aims to improve the sexual and reproductive health and rights of more than one million young people living with and affected by HIV in Bangladesh, Burundi, Ethiopia, Myanmar and Uganda. We are working with partners and young women focal points in these five countries to ensure that the rights and voices of young women from key populations are heard in national, regional and global advocacy processes.

As part of Link Up, consortium members Global Youth Coalition on HIV/AIDS (GYCA) and the ATHENA Network led a consultation with young people living with and affected by HIV. Nearly 800 people from every region of the world responded to a global online survey that collected quantitative and qualitative data in five languages, and over 400 young people participated in a series of community dialogues and focus. The report of this consultation, HIV and sexual and reproductive health and rights: visions, voices, and priorities of young people living with and most affected by HIV highlights five priorities, including providing quality services with ethical and well-trained service providers, and promoting gender equality.

Young women living with HIV who participated in the global consultation highlighted stigmatising experiences in family planning and antenatal facilities as a barrier to their accessing and benefitting from services. A major barrier, at family, community and service levels, is the failure to understand and respect the right of people, especially women, living with HIV to have and enjoy sexual autonomy and seek sexual and romantic relationships. One participant said:

“Perceiving HIV positive people as sexual beings is almost unthinkable by large number of population even today.” Young woman living with HIV, Ethiopia

Overcoming this discrimination, and ensuring that all strategies to promote and implement family planning specifically acknowledge and act on the inclusion of young women living with HIV, is an essential part of ensuring that strategies are able to meet their family planning needs.

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