Sexual and reproductive health services for people living with HIV/AIDS in Germany: are we up to the challenge?
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Germany is witnessing an increase in the number of new infections with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Enabling persons living with HIV (PLHIV) to adopt safer sex practices might contribute towards reducing the incidence of HIV infections. The aim of this study was to identify gaps in the sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services provided to PLHIV in Germany.
Within the framework of the European public health project Eurosupport 5, self-reported questionnaires were distributed to PLHIV and a survey of SRH-service providers was carried out. The completed questionnaires and survey results were analysed.
Of the questionnaires distributed, 218 PLHIV (90 % men, 10 % women) returned a completed questionnaire. Of these, 74 % self-identified as men having sex with men (MSM) and 13 % as heterosexual men. MSM reported a median number of ten casual partners in the previous 6 months and unprotected sex in one-third of anal intercourses with casual partners, demonstrating that this group adopted more risky sexual behaviours than heterosexual PLHIV. Even though all PLHIV stated they would appreciate more support and service providers indicated that they provided a wide range of SRH services, SRH-relevant topics were rarely discussed between PLHIV and service providers. According to the patients’ perception, shortage of time, lack of initiative by service providers and their own difficulty to address SRH-related topics were the most relevant obstacles to receiving satisfactory support.
Many PLHIV consult their HIV-physician regularly for medical follow-up and also indicate that HIV-physicians should be the source of information concerning SRH counselling. HIV-physicians should take advantage of their key role in HIV care and strengthen their efforts to integrate SRH services in routine HIV care.