As a Link Up consortium partner, the Council conducted research on HIV and sexual and reproductive health of young key populations.
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 a world without AIDS.
The Population Council was the principal research partner on Link Up, a global consortium of international and local nongovernmental organizations led by the International HIV/AIDS Alliance. Link Up aimed to improve the sexual and reproductive health and rights of more than one million young people aged 10–24 in Bangladesh, Burundi, Ethiopia, Myanmar, and Uganda who are living with HIV or are affected by the HIV pandemic.
Over three years, the consortium used peer educators to introduce a range of community- and clinic-based interventions to connect hard-to-reach young people with essential HIV and sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services. Link Up also delivered training and resources to healthcare providers to improve the quality and availability of HIV and SRH services.
As a member of the Link Up consortium, the Population Council employed quantitative and qualitative research methods to evaluate Link Up program activities; generated evidence about the issues affecting the most marginalized populations reached by Link Up; and identified effective strategies to reach them.
The Population Council's Link Up research informed ongoing and future programming to improve the ability of providers to offer integrated HIV and sexual and reproductive health services. It reduced stigmatizing attitudes towards young people and key populations, improving access to reproductive health and HIV services available to these communities across diverse settings.