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Mmegi Newspaper reported on 4th June, 2013 that UNFPA and UNAIDS partner to support the SRHR and HIV&AIDS Linkages Project funded by EU. The European Union (EU) donated porta-cabins, medical equipment and furniture to Kgatleng Clinic 1 in Mochudi last week for use as a reproductive health unit.

Head of Botswana/EU Operations at the delegation of the EU to Botswana and SADC, Rigo Belpaire said the day was about creating conditions for reduced stigma and discrimination, better health outcomes, improved service delivery, greater client satisfaction, improved staff motivation and better working conditions". He said that the world agreed that a woman's ability to access reproductive health and rights is a cornerstone in her empowerment. According to Belpaire, a total of 179 governments signed up to a Programme of Action set out to provide, among other things, universal access to family planning and reproductive health services and reproductive rights. This commitment was reaffirmed in the High Level Dialogue on Health in the Post 2015 Development Agenda that took place in Gaborone in March this year, hosted by the Botswana government.

Belpaire said yesterday's event will feed into shaping the new Millennium Development Goals post 2015. He said the whole world had to wake up to the fact that HIV, sexual and reproductive health and rights are intimately linked." A woman can be breast-feeding, HIV positive, be receiving anti-retroviral treatment, have cervical cancer and be in need of contraceptives all at the same time". Furthermore, he noted that there is still great emphasis on curative services, despite the wisdom that prevention is better and much cheaper than cure.

The linkages project, with programmes in seven countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, tries to find a methodology that can deal with these challenges, said Belpaire. It is funded by the EU and implemented by the respective Ministries of Health, supported jointly by UN partners, UNFPA and UNAIDS. The cornerstone of the project is to inspire learning and sharing among the participating countries as they implement it. Belpaire said the project boils down to creating a "one stop-shop" for reproductive health.

He said a woman would simply engage with one nurse for all her needs, instead of seeing one person for contraceptives, another to do a cervical cancer test, then queue for ARV therapy and a mid-wife's advice on breast feeding. "We see, among other things, an increase in HIV testing and a decrease in stigma and discrimination as everybody will be entering through the same door, independent of their status," he noted. He admitted that the project will be challenging at first for staff that will have to learn to take on more complex tasks.

After some time, he said, most testify that it is much more rewarding and interesting to work in an integrated way as queues get shorter. He also noted that integration of services makes economic sense, as there is only need for one room and one person to deal with all the different needs of the care-seeker. By LERATO MALEKE