In the Netherlands we work together on SRHR and HIV/AIDS: scientists, policy makers, health professionals, private sector (entrepreneurs), people living with HIV, activists and people from governmental and non-governmental organisations. Some people call it an inclusive approach. It is in our DNA: we like to ‘polder’ as we say in Dutch.
A focus on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Human Rights, Harm reduction, HIV Research, Key Populations, Youth & Sexuality is an integral part of the Dutch approach. This approach is proven to be effective. Furthermore the importance of sharing best practices and learning from experience is acknowledged
Sexual and Reproductive Health and Human Rights
The Dutch approach recognizes the importance of linking sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and HIV. The interactions between SRH and HIV are widely recognized. In addition, poor sexual and reproductive health and HIV share root causes, including poverty, gender inequality, and social marginalization of the most vulnerable populations. Intrinsic to this agenda is a human rights-based approach, focusing in particular on the human rights of people living with HIV and other key populations. An enabling legal environment is crucial to address structural barriers and prevent stigma and discrimination.
Harm reduction is a set of evidence-based practical strategies and ideas with the aim of reducing the negative consequences associated with drug use and accepting both drug use and the drug user as a fact and reality of life. Harm Reduction is also a movement for social justice built on a belief in, and respect for, the rights of people who use drugs.
Harm reduction incorporates a spectrum of strategies that address conditions of use along with the use itself, such as safer use, managed use, abstinence and meeting drug users “where they’re at”. Because harm reduction demands that interventions and policies designed to serve drug users reflect specific individual and community needs, there is no universal definition of, or formula for, implementing harm reduction. Services that are widely known as harm reduction services include low-threshold HIV/hepatitis prevention, testing and counseling, needle and syringe exchange, opiate substitution treatment, overdose prevention and management, self-control strategies, support to reducing or stopping dosage, and life after drug use. In the Netherlands, interventions such as consumption rooms and heroin treatment are considered valuable measures to reduce harm.
The Dutch approach to HIV research tackles the problem of HIV from every angle: from basic biomedical research to national and international cohort population studies.
The Netherlands is committed to finding solutions that will further improve treatment, reduce transmission and facilitate prevention, such as the development of vaccines against HIV, improving our understanding of antiretroviral therapy, and testing the feasibility of PrEP. As such, the Dutch approach not only benefits those living with HIV, but also aims to prevent new cases of HIV. Moreover, our nationwide, pseudonymised data collection on people living with HIV in the Netherlands, with almost 100% coverage of those people in care, grants a unique insight into the HIV population in the Netherlands and allows us to carry out high quality research that ultimately serves to inform public health policy and improve HIV care.
The Dutch approach to HIV research is cutting-edge, collaborative and informative.
LGBT communities, sex workers, and people who use drugs are criminalized, stigmatized and discriminated against in numerous countries in the world. In many settings, HIV incidence in the general population has stabilized or fallen. However, key populations continue to experience a significant HIV burden; between 40% and 50% of all new HIV infections among adults worldwide occur among people from key populations and their immediate partners. The Dutch approach shows leadership in addressing the health and rights of key populations across the world by actively involving them in the international AIDS/HIV response.
Youth & Sexuality
Young people should have access to comprehensive sexuality education and to high quality, affordable youth-friendly SRH services and information. They should feel empowered to stand up for their rights and be able to enjoy and express their sexuality as they choose. Meaningful and effective youth participation is crucial to the Dutch approach, as almost half the world’s population is under the age of 24.