Maternal Health Policy Series at the Woodrow Wilson Center

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The Maternal Health Policy Series at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington DC kicked off last week with a full house! The packed room came to join three panelists in discussing various aspects of the integration of HIV and AIDS and maternal health services. The first speaker – Dr. Charles Kamenga of Family Health International pointed out the many good reasons to integrate services and called contraception the “best kept secret in HIV prevention.” He showed that providing HIV positive women who do not wish to become pregnant with contraceptive services can avert thousands of HIV infections among infants. The second speaker, Michele Moloney Kitts of the Office of the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, shared her thoughts on the many opportunities to integrate services, including linking family planning services with services to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT), introducing emergency obstetric care and neonatal resuscitation into PMTCT training, and incorporating cervical cancer screening into treatment services for HIV-positive women. She also suggested that President Barack Obama’s forthcoming Global Health Initiative will put greater emphasis on HIV and AIDS and on maternal and reproductive health services. Finally, Harriet Birungi, from the Population Council, described her research with HIV-positive adolescent girls in Kenya and Uganda. She highlighted findings showing that many HIV positive girls are sexually active, yet the majority are not using contraception and, among those who become pregnant, many do not receive PMTCT services. Integrating HIV treatment services with sexual and reproductive health services for this group should be a programmatic priority. The research also shows that provider attitudes are a barrier as is creating effective linkages between HIV and AIDS centers and maternal and child health clinics.

The speakers’ presentations are posted onthe Woodrow Wilson Center website. The event was webcast live, and the webcast will soon be posted on the site as well. You can register on this site to receive the announcement of the next event in this series.