sexual and reproductive health

Reproductive health, which addresses the reproductive processes, functions and systems at all stages of life, is aimed at enabling men and women to have responsible, satisfying and safe sex lives, as well as the capacity and freedom to plan if, when and how often to have children.

The relationships between HIV and sexual and reproductive health are well recognized. The overwhelming majority of HIV infections are sexually transmitted or associated with pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding. Underlying social and economic factors such as poverty and gender inequality contribute to both HIV transmission and poor sexual and reproductive health. By linking initiatives for sexual and reproductive health and HIV multiplies opportunities for preventing and treating sexually transmitted infections including HIV, providing family planning and maternal and child health services, and providing treatment and care for people living with HIV.

Key concerns of reproductive health include the treatment and control of sexually transmitted infections that increase the vulnerability to HIV infection and the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of the virus. Another important focus for reproductive health services is adolescents, who have special needs for care and support during the transition to adulthood and the initiation of sexual relationships – needs that require an even more urgent response since the emergence of AIDS. Yet for a variety of reasons, the reproductive health of young people is particularly neglected and many millions lack the information, skills and equipment to prevent contracting or passing on HIV or other diseases or to avoid unwanted pregnancy.

In 1994, the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) outlined a Programme of Action (the Cairo Consensus) focused on empowering women and meeting people's needs for education and health, including reproductive health. Since then, the international community has actively developed and monitored a series of policies, strategies and actions to actualize the goals of the Cairo Consensus. Central to these policies is addressing the impact of HIV on individuals and on development overall.

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