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Link Up

Link Up existed so young people most affected by HIV could take ownership of their health and access sexual health services.

Why we did it

With young people (aged 15-24) accounting for 40% of new HIV infections globally, Link Up was created to ensure that these young people could realise their right to sexual and reproductive health services.

The challenges were that the sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services rarely met the diverse needs of young people most affected by HIV.

They often failed to take into account other factors that affect vulnerability to HIV and other STI’s. These include:

  • Gender-based inequalities and violence
  • Poverty
  • Harmful cultural practices, and
  • Policies and laws that criminalise same-sex practices, sex work, drug use, and HIV transmission.

As a result, Link Up was developed to help those looking to enable young people most affected by HIV to:

  • Understand and claim their sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and
  • Access youth-friendly, integrated services.

Where we did it

Link Up worked in Bangladesh, Burundi, Ethiopia, Myanmar and Uganda, targeting young people most affected by HIV.

How we did it

From 2014 to 2017, Link Up worked through our linking organisations and partners to introduce:

Youth leadership and empowerment

Link Up consortium members consulted with young people living with and affected by HIV in all 5 countries. Their extensive work focused on:

  • Developing young leaders
  • Role models
  • Peer educators

I was afraid of revealing that I was HIV positive.  They asked me why are you afraid, when we are all in the same boat Pacifique, 20 year old

This video follows 20-year-old Pacifique, a regular visitor to the centre who discovered he was HIV positive as a child. He talks about why HIV is his good friend and how his drama group is making films to raise awareness of social and health issues such as poverty, violence and HIV.

Integrated HIV and SRHR Services

To better meet the diverse needs of young people most affected by HIV, Link Up focused on:

  • integrating HIV services with services relating to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and
  • transforming services through training and technical support.

A key element of this was working with Marie Stopes International (MSI) to provide integrated SRHR and HIV services in public and private clinics and linking up services between health facilities.

Youth Advocacy

Link Up engaged with the people who shape and influence the opportunities young people have to lead healthy and fulfilling lives. It particularly focused on:

  • reaching global decision makers
  • influencing national agendas
  • advocacy work
  • social media debates

Link Up has created important pathways for young people to access services and information, and to access parliament and advocacy efforts. It has put young people at the centre.

Link Up has created important pathways and tunnels for young people to access services and information, and to access parliament and advocacy efforts. It has put young people at the centre.Andrew Miller, Marie Stopes International Link Up Consortium Partner

THE RESULTS

Link Up is about both SRH and HIV, and I think one of the things that’s good about the programme is that it’s very real. It’s very realistic. So providing condoms, acknowledging that young people will have sex, but enabling people to protect themselves.Miriam, 19, Kisakye Youth Centre, Kampala, Uganda

Through Link Up, young people aged 10-24 were reached with integrated HIV/SRHR services. The key highlights include:

  • Reached 940,000 young people to be better informed and able to make healthier choices about their sexual health
  • Built 10,651 youth leaders, role models and peer educators
  • Sensitised 1,000 decision makers and law enforcement officials to have greater respect for the rights of young people most affected by HIV.

We were able to reach so many people thanks to funding from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the government of the Netherlands, and the following consortium partners: The ATHENA Network, The Global Youth Coalition on HIV/AIDS (GYCA), Marie Stopes International, The Population Council, and STOP AIDS NOW!.

The work of Link Up now continues under the ‘READY’ programme.

 

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