Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Back to basics: HIV/AIDS belongs with sexual and reproductive health

Adrienne Germain, Ruth Dixon-Mueller & Gita Sen

The Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) held in Cairo in 1994 offers a comprehensive framework for achieving sexual and reproductive health and rights, including the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS, and for advancing other development goals. The United Nations Millennium Development Goals now incorporate a target of universal access to sexual and reproductive health within the goal of improving maternal health, but combating HIV remains a separate project with malaria and tuberculosis. We present a brief history of key decisions made by WHO, other United Nations’ agencies, the United Nations Millennium Project and major donors that have led to the separation of HIV/AIDS from its logical programmatic base in sexual and reproductive health and rights. This fragmentation does a disservice to the achievement of both sets of goals and objectives. In urging a return to the original ICPD construct as a framework for action, we call for renewed leadership commitment, investment in health systems to deliver comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services, including HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, comprehensive youth programmes, streamlined country strategies and donor support. All investments in research, policies and programmes should build systematically on the natural synergies inherent in the ICPD model to maximize their effectiveness and efficiency and to strengthen the capacity of health systems to deliver universally accessible sexual and reproductive health information and services.