Link Up: Reaching and engaging young people most affected by HIV

STOP AIDS NOW! contributes to the implemention of Link Up. This programme aims to reduce unintended pregnancies, HIV transmission and HIV-related maternal mortality amongst young people most affected by HIV.

Link Up is anambitious programme implemented in Bangladesh, Burma, Burundi, Ethiopia and Uganda by a consortium of partners. These are the International HIV/AIDS Alliance (the lead agency), STOP AIDS NOW!, Marie Stopes International, Population Council, the Global Youth Coalition on HIV/AIDS, and the ATHENA Network. Link Up is funded for USD 43.8 million by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs through the SRHR Fund and runs from 2013 through 2015. The Link Up consortium works with a pool of national implementing partners in the five countries. 

Contributing to reduced unintended pregnancies

The goal of the Link Up programme is to contribute to reduced unintended pregnancies, HIV transmission and HIV-related maternal mortality amongst young people most affected by HIV—young people living with HIV, young sex workers, young men who have sex with men and young people who use drugs—aged 10-24. Link Up seeks to achieve this goal by upholding their sexual and reproductive rights and by increasing their health seeking behaviours and uptake of quality integrated maternal health, family planningand HIV information, services and commodities. Link Up will directly reach 1.001.250 young people. 

Involved in the implementation of Link Up in two key ways

STOP AIDS NOW! is involved in the implementation of Link Up in two key ways. STOP AIDS NOW! works with the International Community of Women Living with HIV in Eastern Africa (ICW EA) to advocate for improved sexual and reproductive health and HIV services. STOP AIDS NOW! works with the ATHENA network, GYCA and the International HIV/AIDS Alliance to influence the post-2015 framework and the ICPD+20 process to include a strong commitment to the health and human rights of young people most affected by HIV. The Stop AIDS Alliance, our partnership with the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, makes a key role in developing and rolling out this policy and advocacy work.

Advocacy for improved sexual and reproductive health and HIV services

As part of its advocacy for improved sexual and reproductive health and HIV services, ICW EA supports young women living with HIV to research rights violations in the context of those services and develop their own advocacy agenda to improve their quality. The research focuses strongly on the forced and coerced sterilisation of women living with HIV in Uganda.

ICW EA’s activities include: 

  • Organizing awareness raising and education sessions replicating the successes of ICW’s “Young Women's Dialogue” model. ICW’s Young Women’s Dialogues (YWDs) are designed to explore and address the specific needs and concerns of young HIV-positive women (aged 18–30) and to develop an appropriate advocacy agenda to promote the rights of young HIV-positive women. The workshops provide the basic tools for participants to examine their own experiences through a gender-human rights lens in the context of HIV and to draw out main advocacy themes, develop messages, and outline the necessary steps to take their advocacy agenda forward.
  • Developing research led by young women living with HIV that replicates ICW’s Voice and Choices approach. The Voices and Choices approach involves working with HIV positive women and training them to collect data and analyse the findings. The work is done in partnership between positive women and researchers, community leaders and health workers. The Link Up research also draws from the experiences of the research done on forced and coerced sterilization in Namibia, Kenya and South Africa. Research in these three countries also involved working with women living with HIV to understand and identify rights violations and to be fact-finders and evidence gatherers.
  • Capturing good practices to support replication. ICW EA will document the methods, tools and good practices from the research on the forced and coerced sterilisation of women living with HIV. It will also capture the methods, tools and good practices from previous research projects. The manual that will emerge from this documentation process is intended to allow women living with HIV elsewhere to conduct research work around sterilisation in their own countries.

Supporting young people most affected by HIV to participate and take leadership roles in key policy and advocacy processes and events

To influence the post-2015 framework and the ICPD+20 process STOP AIDS NOW! supports young people most affected by HIV to participate and take leadership roles in key policy and advocacy processes and events. For example, we supported three young women (two from Uganda and one from Kenya) to participate at the youth meeting in the run up to the Post 2015 High Level Panel meeting in Bali in March 2013. We also supported three young people (one from Burundi, Kenya and Uganda, respectively) to participate at the youth pre-meeting to the UNECA/AU ICPD African Regional Population Conference in September 2013. We are currently supporting the ICASA Youth Front pre-meeting, at programme and participation level.

Influencing the policy frameworks behind these key policy and advocacy processes and events

STOP AIDS NOW! also works to influence the policy frameworks behind these key policy and advocacy processes and events. For example, with other Link Up policy partners, we developed a policy brief on HIV and SRHR integration for young people most affected by HIV. Through the Stop AIDS Alliance we also actively participated at the United Nations General Assembly meeting in September 2013, for example by organizing a side event.

We further work to mobilise different networks for joint lobbying in the post-2015 and  ICPD+20 processes. We work with Dutch civil society, through Share-Net, and the Dutch SRHR Alliance to influence and support the Dutch position on post-2015, writing joint lobby letters to the Dutch government, for example. We are members of the Global SRHR Post 2015 Platform as well as members of Action for Global Health and liaise with a variety of key groups such as IPPF and UNFPA.