Beri Hull, from the International Community of Women Living with HIV (ICW), in her response to the “Progress report on the Global Plan Towards the Elimination of New HIV Infections Among Children by 2015 and Keeping their Mothers Alive”, focuses on meaningful engagement of women living with HIV.
Thank you Madame Chair for allowing us to share our perspectives and Dr. Delay for delivering the progress report. We also thank Executive Director Michele Sidibe and Ambassador Eric Goosby for their initiative.
My name is Beri Hull and I am the Global Advocacy Officer for the International Community of Women Living with HIV. We are an international network of women living with HIV and a civil society member of the Global Steering Group for the Global Plan. We appreciate the partnership and the momentum generated among UNAIDS, member states, and civil society to end vertical transmission. Having just concluded two important consultations with women and men living with HIV and advocates while at ICASA, we would like to make 4 points.
First, we appreciate the Global Plan’s acknowledgement of the key principle that women living with HIV must be at the center of the response. Therefore, we encourage member states to more proactively engage civil society, community members, and especially women living with HIV in the planning and implementation of scaled up efforts to end vertical transmission. Additionally, as Dr. Delay suggested, such engagement should include meaningful involvement of women living with HIV on the Prevention of Vertical Transmission Technical Working Groups in each country. Such meaningful engagement will lead to truly effective programs that will enable the 22 focus countries to meet the targets of the Global Plan.
This is particularly highlighted by the example given by the esteemed delegate from India yesterday. Madame delegate noted that India faces great challenges due to the approximately 27 million home deliveries that occur. By engaging civil society more proactively in developing programs that involve traditional birth attendants and the community at large, India’s program may more effectively reach those pregnant women who would not otherwise use the clinics where the majority of Prevention of Vertical Transmission efforts are currently based.
Second, we are concerned with the quality of care to be delivered under the flag of the Global Plan. In the push to meet the targets of the Global Plan, we request that care is particularly monitored from the perspective of and by women living with HIV. Without such monitoring, we fear that women living with HIV could otherwise be subject to mandatory testing and forced sterilization, which has been experienced and documented by some of our members in many countries. As the esteemed delegate from Finland mentioned, no woman should ever be subjected to this and should be provided full information and decision making capacity regarding their sexual and reproductive health.
Third, we would like to reiterate the importance of using a COMPREHENSIVE approach to end vertical transmission, rather than merely an emphasis on interventions immediately before and after birth. This means that each country should implement programs under all four prongs of the strategy, including prong 1 (primary prevention) and prong 2 (providing counseling, support, and contraceptives to women living with HIV to meet their family planning needs).
Finally, we would like to reaffirm the statement made by the NGO delegation regarding concerns about the goals of the Global Plan given the funding challenges faced by the Global Fund. Networks of women living with HIV around the world and other women’s organizations are eager to collaborate with others to encourage donors to fulfill their commitment to Fund the Global Fund.