Why do we need integration?: sharing experiences in Cambodia

June 22, 2011

Posted by Chhim Kolab

Management Support Officer, Khmer HIV/AIDS NGO Alliance (KHANA)

From 30 May to 3 June, a ‘Regional Learning Exchange’ took place in Phnom Penh, including more than 35 participants  from Alliance partners in Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Malaysia, Myanmar and Vietnam.  The week began with a two-day workshop on ‘Integration of HIV/AIDS and Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights’.

Here, Chhim Kolab from Khmer HIV/AIDS NGO Alliance (KHANA), the Alliance’s Linking Organisation in Cambodia, shares her reflection on the workshop.

It was such a great opportunity for me to be one of the participants in the two-day workshop, facilitated by MAMTA – Health Institute for Mother and Child and Alliance India, both based in New Delhi, with support from the International HIV/AIDS Alliance Secretariat.

I absorbed and acquired a broad range of experiences from other organizations which specialize in HIV/AIDS, and have experience in integrating HIV/AIDS and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) programmes.  I had several discussions with Alliance Myanmar, HIV and STD Alliance Bangladesh, Malaysian AIDS Council, and Vietnam Civil Society Platform on AIDS.

It seemed clear to me that Alliance Linking Organizations have been quite confident in moving forward to work in other health and development areas, by relying on their strengths and expertise in HIV/AIDS.

For example, Malaysian AIDS Council shared information about its HIV/SRH integrated clinic, known as ‘Sexual Awareness for Everyone’.  90% of the clinic’s clients are men who have sex with men, and it provides a variety of services for HIV and sexually transmitted infections. These services include counseling, education, care, support, and treatment.

Why do we need integration?

Despite some challenges, integration does bring effectiveness and efficiency to the programme itself and also collective benefits to the communities where our key populations live and work.

Today, access to HIV/AIDS treatment, prevention, care and support is improving, but the sexual and reproductive health needs of people living with HIV and other vulnerable populations are still unmet. HIV/AIDS and SRHR programmes are running separately, in parallel health structures.  To do something for better and more comprehensive health services for all, we have to commit to bringing these programmes together.

Lessons learned

This two-day workshop was not only the floor for discussing, learning, and sharing, but also an occasion to build up a network and relations across the Alliance on SRHR/HIV.  We committed to continuing to share work on SRHR in the future.  In the short and long term, all participants will be able to request for feedback and inputs from the network on issues related to integration. I myself obtained lots of understanding and clarity around conceptualized aspects of sexuality, the connection between sex, sexuality and sexual health, and components to be integrated.  In addition, we discussed the factors leading to risks/vulnerabilities, and solutions to SRHR challenges at individual, community, service, and policy levels.

Next steps

We also had an opportunity to reflect on our own work and organization. We asked: what do we want to bring forward in terms of our integration work?

Since I am now  a member of KHANA’s Resource Mobilization Committee, and am also involved in its policy and strategy work, I have a role to ensure that all submitted proposals and policy activities include integral sections on SRHR, TB, mother and child health, and development opportunities when and where possible.

The workshop was followed by two horizontal learning exchanges on focused prevention programmes and onward granting and budgeting. Zamzuri Abdul Malik from the Malaysian AIDS Council  (MAC), the Alliance’s Linking Organisation in Malaysia, has also blogged about the learning exchange. You can read it here.

The Alliance Horizontal Learning Exchange Scheme is designed to support mutual learning, sharing and partnership across the Alliance. The exchange involves a visit between two Linking Organisations, Country Offices, or Technical Support Hubs.  The exchanges are made possible through financial and facilitation support from the Alliance Secretariat in the UK.

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