FCI engages Clinton on women, reproductive health and HIV

January 2012

Responding to a major speech by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on U.S. HIV/AIDS policy, FCI president Ann Starrs joined leaders of nearly two dozen advocacy organizations in urging Secretary Clinton to focus more on the links between HIV/AIDS and reproductive and maternal health.

In a letter coordinated by FCI, CEOs from across the reproductive health community expressed support for “the Administration’s commitment to reducing vertical transmission of HIV infection, promoting male circumcision, and making treatment central to prevention as essential components of a strategy for curbing the AIDS pandemic.” They expressed concern, however, that Secretary Clinton’s November 8, 2011, speech on creating an AIDS-free generation “included not a single mention of family planning, contraception, reproductive health, or maternal health.” At a time when 60% of Africans living with HIV are women, the letter asked Secretary Clinton to clearly identify contraception as an essential pillar of the U.S. AIDS response — “as both an effective way to reduce the spread of HIV and as critical to the care and support of women living with HIV.”

The CEOs also urged Secretary Clinton and the Administration to steadfastly resist any attempted reinstatement of the Global Gag Rule, to support continued U.S. funding for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and to articulate clearly and consistently the U.S. position “that integration of services, including integration of reproductive health and family planning services into basic health care, is a core principle of the U.S. Global Health Initiative, and is part of the PEPFAR 5-year strategy.”

In replying to the CEOs’ letter in late December, Secretary Clinton reiterated the Administration’s focus on the health of women and girls, its commitment to “sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights, including voluntary family planning,” and its recognition of the central role of reproductive health services in HIV prevention and in treatment and care for people living with HIV. “I commend you,” she wrote, “on your passion and your contributions for advancing women’s health and rights. I very much appreciate the observations provided by you and your NGO colleagues to ensure that we are effectively promoting gender equality, advancing the status of women and girls, and addressing the reproductive health needs of women around the world.”

This exchange between Secretary Clinton and FCI and our advocacy partners comes in the context of FCI’s ongoing work to inform and influence U.S. foreign assistance and global health policies, and to promote more progressive U.S. leadership on maternal and reproductive health and family planning.

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