The AIDS epidemic is integrally linked to sexual and reproductive health: The majority of HIV infections are sexually transmitted or associated with pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding. Both HIV/AIDS and poor sexual and reproductive health are driven by common root causes, including poverty, gender inequality and social marginalization of the most vulnerable populations. Responses to both health issues should be closely linked and mutually reinforcing. Further, family planning and HIV programmes have similar desired outcomes in reducing maternal, newborn and child mortality and improving the health of both mothers and their children.
In Kenya, the maternal mortality rate is high, mostly because women do not give birth under the care of skilled health providers. These high rates of maternal deaths are attributed to known and preventable causes and most of these deaths could be avoided if the mother is managed at a health facility by a qualified health professional. Lack of safe maternal health has led to the spread of HIV transmission of mother to child.
HIV and AIDS increase maternal mortality as suppressed immunity causes a higher risk of pre-natal and childbirth complications. Integrating these services not only makes sense, but because of the shared resources also saves cents. For a long time Kenya has been running parallel HIV/AIDS and Family Planning/Reproductive Health programs which has led to wastage of finances and time for both the clients and service provider.
Integrating the services means they are either provided under the same roof, or employ a streamlined referral system to ensure that all of a woman’s reproductive health care needs are met for the best possible outcomes. She can thus receive HIV testing while visiting a family planning clinic, or receive family planning information and services while seeking treatment for HIV.
LVCT Health through its integration program of family planning, reproductive health and HIV/AIDS ensures that mothers get help so as to reduce mother to child HIV transmission. Our Huduma Tosha model also incorporates screening and appropriate treatment or referrals for unmet family planning needs, cervical cancer, sexually transmitted infections and provision of gender based violence information as well as TB and alcohol addiction, into HIV Testing and Counseling services. The model incorporates a referral and follow-up mechanism that ensures effective referrals taken up within 3 months.