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APA Launch Advocacy Toolkit To Brings Awareness To Self-care And Create Equal Access To Health Services

Asia Pacific Alliance for Sexual and Reproductive Health (APA) launch advocacy toolkit to brings awareness to self-care and create equal access to health services in honor of 12 December Universal Health Coverage Day.

The COVID19 pandemic has brought to the fore the need for civil society interventions in order to ensure strong health systems that reach the needs of all. Self-care holds the potential to increase the choice, accessibility, and affordability of sexual and reproductive health and rights services in particular.

A new toolkit produced by APA aims to fill that gap by raising awareness, sharing good practices, and encouraging civil society advocacy with governments in the Asia Pacific region.

During the pandemic, impacts of COVID19 increased barriers for people, especially marginalized groups, to access SRHR services. The lockdowns and disruptions to services were detrimental to health and well-being, disproportionately affecting women, young people, people living with HIV, LGBTIQ, people with disabilities, and migrants, amongst others.

Few governments initially classified SRH services as essential services during the pandemic, and in 2020 60% of women faced barriers to seeing a medical professional in Asia Pacific. According to the Lancet, 40 studies from 17 countries found increases in maternal deaths, stillbirth, ruptured ectopic pregnancies, and maternal depression in 2020 (1). Rates of gender-based violence and violence against marginalized groups also surged, increasing the need for SRH and response services for those affected.

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APA is launching the Civil Society Led Initiatives for SRHR Self-care Advocacy Toolkit because we believe that self-care interventions provide an important alternative to facility-based or health worker-provided services, and can help fill gaps. Self-care empowers communities to be active decision-makers over their own health, including sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Self-care interventions provide opportunities for people to make informed decisions regarding their SRHR according to APA Executive Director Alexandra Johns, and “help governments achieve the commitments they have made to international agreements like Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, and the International Conference on Population and Development”, which all governments in the region have signed on to.

Governments should work with civil society and recognize innovative approaches such as self-care protocols that can reduce costs, increase efficiencies, and enable person-centered care and well-being, added Shama Karkal, Chief Executive of Swasti Catalyst, and Chair of APA Steering Committee

In Australia, for example, telehealth proved itself an essential strategy to address unmet need for SRHR during the pandemic. As a result of advocacy by Family Planning New South Wales, it has been included in the government’s 2021-22 budget, for the first time.

APCOM's TestBKK is a community-led initiative in Thailand to encourage young gay men and men who have sex with men to get tested and access HIV services online and through social media. APCOM's Executive Director, Midnight Poonkasetwattana, explained “we dispatch HIV prevention packages [which are self-administered] through courier when a client orders online, who might otherwise not be able to access such services”. When the pandemic began in Thailand late March last year, over 5,153 clients had been served.

Civil society-led self-care for SRHR is a powerful way to ensure that marginalized communities can access and fulfill their right SRHR, and these lessons learned through the pandemic can be a catalyst for governments across Asia and the Pacific to truly achieve health for all.

Read more the website of the Asia Pacific Alliance for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (APA), and download the toolkit here.

(1) Chmielewska et al (2021) Effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on maternal and perinatal outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Lancet Global Health 2021; 9: e759–72. https://www.thelancet.com/action/showPdf?pii=S2214-109X%2821%2900079-6

Asia Pacific Alliance for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights is a network of national, regional and global civil society organizations that advocate for the fulfilment of sexual and reproductive health and rights for all persons in the Asia Pacific region.

@AsiaPacAlliance

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