UNFPA releases guidelines on HIV testing and counseling
The International Planned Parenthood Federation and the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) announced guidelines on Tuesday to assist reproductive health care providers who want to offer HIV testing and counseling.
Voluntary counseling and testing (VCT) for HIV is highly effective at preventing the spread of the virus and often provides newly diagnosed patients with legal and psychological help, the U.N. agency said, but it is frequently offered in isolation from overall sexual and reproductive health services. Pilot projects in Ivory Coast and India found "exponential benefits" to integrating the two, among them reduced stigma, heightened awareness and increased access to HIV/AIDS care services.
The guidelines, offered in English, French and Spanish through the two organizations' Web sites, provide step-by-step advice for incorporating VCT into the services of a sexual or reproductive health clinic.
UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya Obaid said integrating the two services presents "an opportunity to reach the millions, especially women, who are vulnerable to [HIV] infection."
Steven Sinding, the director general of the IPPF, the world's largest provider of reproductive health services, echoed Obaid. "Only by addressing people's sexual and reproductive health needs in a consultative and holistic manner can we work together to roll back the devastation caused by the HIV virus," he said (UNFPA release, Feb. 17).