Don’t Let Sexual and Reproductive Health become Collateral Damage in the Face of the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Public Health Perspective

Desiree Govender, Saloshni Naidoo, Myra Taylor

Abstract

South Africa, similar to many other countries in the African continent is still experiencing challenges in its efforts to provide sexual and reproductive health (SRH) care to women and adolescent girls, and it has become clear that the COVID-19 pandemic is the latest threat to universal access to SRH. In the face of this threat, the Sustainable Developmental Goals that call on the global community to “leave no one behind” may become a blurred vision unless we adopt a wider lens away from the tunnel vision that currently plagues health systems around the globe. This paper therefore exposes how SRH may become collateral damage in the face of the present COVID-19 pandemic. Previous disease outbreaks diverted attention from critical SRH services, including antenatal care, safe abortions, contraception, HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections.   Governments, policy makers, health system gatekeepers and civil society organisations should not allow the COVID-19 phobia to bar women and adolescent girls from accessing SRH services. In fact, the global and South African response to the COVID-19 pandemic must protect everyone’s rights, particularly in the health care context. Gender considerations and a human rights approach must be embedded in ensuring the accessibility and availability of SRH services. (Afr J Reprod Health 2020 (Special Edition); 24[2]:56-63).

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