Advocating for Cervical Cancer Testing for Women Living With HIV

It is essential that the public health system ensures the availability and accessibility to testing and treatment of cervical cancer for women living with HIV, who are five times more likely to be affected by cervical cancer.

The Koshish Project recently held an advocacy meeting to discuss frequent non-compliance with the National AIDS Control Organisation’s (NACO) Revised Technical Guidelines on ‘Laboratory Monitoring for Patients at ART Centre/LAC/LAC Plus’ to test women on ART for cervical cancer, a disease that is five times more likely to affect women living with HIV.

Initiated by Alliance India’s Koshish partners Vasavya Mahila Mandala (VMM) and the Telegu Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS (TNP+), the state-level advocacy meeting highlighted the need for the public health system to ensure the availability and accessibility to testing and treatment for cervical cancer among women living with HIV (WLHIV). 

The meeting took place at the Andhra Pradesh State AIDS Control Society (APSACS) where VMM and TNP+ were joined by 23 district-level PLHIV networks to present a memorandum to the Project Director of APSACS.  They advocated for the urgent need for public healthcare facilities in Andhra Pradesh to implement NACO’s ART guidelines to improve the quality of life for WLHIV vulnerable to cervical cancer.

Dr. B. Jayamma, Additional Project Director, APSACS, chaired the meeting and, in her closing address, she assured the participants that the NACO revised technical guidelines on ART would be reviewed and SACS would take immediate action to implement the guidelines.  

Koshish held a similar meeting in Tamil Nadu, at which J.S. Malliga from the Cancer Institute carried out a presentation demonstrating the high level of vulnerability to cervical cancer experienced by WHLIV. This meeting also saw the release of a baseline study conducted by India HIV/AIDS Alliance, Tamil Nadu Positive Women Network and Palmyrah Workers Development Society for the Koshish Project. The study found that PLHIV felt that their SRH rights were being violated, with ten percent of PLHIV surveyed for the study stating that they were unaware of where they could go to receive information related to sexual health, contraceptives, and related care and treatment.

These meetings highlight  the urgency with which PLHIV need to be informed about their SRH rights and the SRH services available to them, and the necessity for cervical cancer testing to be a part of these services for WHLIV.

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India HIV/AIDS Alliance works closely with PLHIV in India through its Koshish Project which strengthens civil society organizations and networks that represent and work with PLHIV and other marginalized groups, such as MSM, transgenders, sex workers and IDUs, to effectively advocate for policies to improve the sexual and reproductive health and rights of PLHIV in India. This project is funded by the European Commission and is implemented in partnership with MAMTA, PWDS, VMM and CHETNA, along with state-level networks for PLHIV in Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat.

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