HIV is a sexually transmitted infection (STI), hence the general consensus is that sexual reproductive health rights (SRHR) can be a panacea to achieving zero incidence of HIV cases. To a certain degree, it is a compelling notion, but ending HIV takes more than just SRHR. Interestingly though, the HIV crisis seems to have stimulated more light to be shed on SRHR issues.
Since the dawn of the HIV/AIDS epidemic about thirty-nine years ago, great strides have been made to bridge SRHR issues with efforts to end the HIV problem. SRHR is a blanket term referring to four distinct areas: reproductive rights, sexual rights, sexual health and reproductive health.
Since the turn of the millennium, the terms, ‘gender’; ‘contraception’; ‘condomize’; ‘abstinence’; ‘family planning’; ‘stigma and discrimination’ have become a mainstay in the societal vocabulary and have been incorporated into many school curricula around the world. To a certain degree, the ‘linking’ initiative has been effective, as evidenced by general decrease in HIV incidence cases and increased level of awareness worldwide. Despite the relative success, the measures have only worked that far, evidenced by the slow traction in eliminating the virus itself.
The over-emphasis of SRHR, has cast a blind spot towards a potentially game changing area in terms of eradication of HIV. Drug Development. It is the most realistic hope there is to end the HIV epidemic. More effort needs to be invested in increasing R&D for HIV by relevant stakeholders such as the WHO, Global Fund, Big Pharma &Tech companies, Research Institutes and National governments. If the current coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated anything, it is the fact that when there is cooperation among the main stakeholders, a global health threat can be dealt with swiftly.
This is considering the immense amount of funds and effort put into developing effective COVID-19 vaccines in such a short time. HIV could also be treated with similar respect considering its mortality trail and societal impact. The adoption of Artificial intelligence, Nanotechnology and Genetic engineering in medicine can offer renewed hope in finding new drug leads against HIV. SRHR have their place in the HIV fight, though efforts are often made futile by complex issues such as social barriers including, different religious beliefs, cultural customs, superstitions and norms.
To further compound the issue is the rise of the influential LGBTQ community which requires special attention in SRHR matters. In conclusion, it is an undeniable fact that HIV has been instrumental in how people perceive SRHR, but more can be done in terms of R&D and drug development to foster production of HIV vaccines which would be a giant leap towards ending the HIV epidermic.