April 25, 2012
"PEPFAR has said it will use" nearly $1.5 billion in unspent aid "to invest in commodities (condoms, HIV rapid test kits and voluntary medical male circumcision kits), systems and institutions, and program strengthening," Suzanne Ehlers, president of Population Action International, writes in this post in the Huffington Post's "Impact" blog. "Here's one idea that would offer a huge return on investment and save the lives of millions: voluntary contraception for women," she continues, adding, "Voluntary contraception has been called 'the best kept secret in HIV prevention' and has a proven evidence base."
"Access to contraception has long been identified as one of four key components of successful programs to prevent mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV, and yet it has been neglected because of insufficient resources and separate funding streams," Ehlers writes, noting, "New World Health Organization guidelines on couples HIV testing and counseling include family planning as part of the package of information and linked services offered in counseling sessions." She adds, "All women, including those living with HIV, have a right to decide whether and when to have children, and how many to have," and concludes, "We should allow countries to use PEPFAR funds for contraceptives beyond condoms, as well as health workforce training to deliver integrated family planning and HIV services and supply chain strengthening to prevent stock-outs. This would also align with the Global Health Initiative's [GHI] aim of a more integrated, women-centered and country-driven global health program" (4/24).