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HIV and sexual reproductive health link still lacking

JA-HealthA study released this week has  found that there is still lack of policies and limited understanding on the need for linkages and integration in HIV and sexual reproductive health services in Namibia.
The study results also show that the active national steering and technical committees on linkages and integration are currently non-existence.
“There are also limited levels of joint planning, budgeting and implementation, limited skills of health care providers as well as a low level of integration of HIV and sexual and reproductive health services nationwide,” said project consultant, Dr Ebong Akpabio.
The needs assessment on linkages and integration between HIV and sexual and reproductive health and rights in Namibia was conducted at various health institutions across the country between March and June 2011.
The United Nations Population Fund country representative, Fabiano Byomuhangi said the study comes after realising that there is urgent need to strengthen the linkages between sexual reproductive health and HIV programmes.
“External financial support for HIV response in Namibia is declining, this explains why efficiency and effectiveness have become more critical than ever before. Linking HIV and sexual reproductive health also optimises the use of existing infrastructures by enabling clients to access a whole variety of sexual reproductive health and HIV services under one roof, which reduces time,” he said.
Although diverse health services are offered at various health facilities, the study reported that male and youth involvement remains a huge challenge when it comes to accessing sexual reproductive health services.
The study further shows that there is a lack of services available and suitable to the general population, including men who have sex with men, sex workers, youth, adolescents and lesbians.
“Hence action should be taken to accommodate them,” Akpabio said.
Given the findings, Akpabio said that the integration of HIV and sexual reproductive health services take time and need to be properly planned, hence there is need for advocacy, communication, community participation, staff capacity development and availability of clear guidelines, which are crucial for success.
 “Linkages and integration have been shown to be beneficial, efficient and effective in expanding access to available sexual reproductive health and HIV services,” he added.
The study also showed that there is only a minimal number of linkages that currently exist in Namibia, which include the National Strategic Framework on HIV and  AIDS 2010/11-2015/16, National Policy on  HIV/AIDS and National Health Policy Framework, amongst others.
The assessment was carried out with the aim to establish the current status of integration of sexual and reproductive health and HIV programmes in Namibia and sought to provide a guide to the Ministry of Health and Social Services and its collaborators for further programme development and integration.
“Benefits of the integration include better access of people living with HIV to sexual reproductive health services tailored to their needs as well as the reduction in HIV-related stigma and discrimination,” Akpabio said.

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