The Council is a research partner on Link Up, a global consortium to improve RH/HIV service integration for young people.
Young people between the ages of 15 and 24 account for a large proportion of all new HIV infections. Yet most HIV and sexual and reproductive health programs overlook young people, particularly those from marginalized groups—including young women and men living with HIV, sex workers, men who have sex with men, and transgender people. Instead, services focus on adults living with HIV or women of reproductive age.
Stigma, discrimination, and cultural taboos also serve as critical roadblocks to young people, who may not feel safe or comfortable accessing services. However, given the significant number of youth living with HIV worldwide, youth-specific HIV services are critical to achieving the goal of an AIDS-free future.
The Population Council is evaluating Link Up, a global consortium of international and nongovernmental organizations led by the International HIV/AIDS Alliance that will reach more than one million young people aged 10–24 in Bangladesh, Burundi, Ethiopia, Myanmar, and Uganda. Over three years, the consortium will integrate sexual and reproductive health services into existing community- and facility-based HIV programs. In Bangladesh and Myanmar, Link Up will focus on those hardest hit by HIV, including young men who have sex with men and sex workers. The program will provide appropriately tailored information and advocacy support to help these youth overcome barriers to accessing health services, such as stigma, discrimination, and fear of arrest. In Burundi, Ethiopia, and Uganda, where the HIV epidemic is more generalized, the focus will be on young girls at risk of HIV infection, child marriage, unintended pregnancy, and maternal mortality.
The Population Council will employ quantitative and qualitative research methods to evaluate Link Up program activities. Council researchers will document innovative approaches to service integration and recommend methods to improve service coordination and accessibility and to better focus services in different communities and settings.
Link Up will improve the ability of providers to offer integrated HIV and sexual and reproductive health services. It will increase access to reproductive health and HIV services available to young people across diverse settings. Results from Link Up will be presented at national and global forums to ensure that policymakers meet the sexual and reproductive health needs and rights of those young people most affected by HIV.