Journal Article

Meeting the sexual and reproductive health needs of people living with HIV: Challenges for health care providers

A trained health service workforce is critical to ensuring good quality service delivery to people with HIV. There is only limited documented information on the challenges and constraints facing health care providers in meeting the sexual and reproductive health needs of HIV positive women and men. This paper reviews information on providers’ attitudes, motivation and level of preparedness in addressing the sexual and reproductive health needs of people living with HIV in the context of the human resources crisis and emerging treatment and prevention strategies. There is a need for significant investment in improving the health infrastructure and providers’ ability to take universal precautions against infection in health care settings. Additionally, there is need for comprehensive and appropriate training for health care providers to build their capacity to meet the requirements and expectations of different sub-populations of HIV positive people. This includes not only physicians but also nurses and midwives, who are the primary caregivers for most of the population in many resource-poor settings. Supportive and knowledgeable providers are crucial for helping HIV positive people seek and adhere to treatment, prevent sexually transmitted infections, unintended pregnancies and vertical transmission of HIV and support positive living free from stigma and discrimination. Providers, some of whom may themselves be HIV positive, can make an important difference, especially if they are supported in their working conditions, are knowledgeable about HIV and sexual and reproductive health and have the skills to provide good quality care.