Press Release | 25 November 2016

Durban, South Africa – The Health Economics and HIV and AIDS Research Division (HEARD) has been tasked with the duty of linking policy and programming through research for at risk populations in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region. Key populations include members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people (LGBTI) community and other at risk youth.

Young key populations in Southern Africa face significant barriers to accessing HIV and sexual health rights (SRH) services. Many of these barriers originate from country laws and policies that are punitive, discriminatory, conflicting and restrictive. Criminalisation of same sex relationships, age restrictive laws prohibiting young people’s access to HIV testing, contraceptives, abortion and SRH services (or only with parental consent) and restrictive policies on provision of SRH commodities in schools and prisons.
In order to improve HIV/SRH outcomes in young key populations, HIV/SRH legal, policy and strategy environments for young key populations need to be strengthened and monitored. Over the next three years we will embark on targeted research with the goal of strengthening policy environments in specific countries in the SADC. In partnership with African Men for Sexual Health and Rights, we will seek to progress the current knowledge base of research of key populations in the SADC countries, whilst strengthening each country’s own capacity for critical reflection and policy implementation.
This project, created under a mandate by the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme), ultimately seeks to:
  • Ensure the removal of barriers to access in health care systems in Africa, those that are both systemically, and socially entrenched;
  • Support national governments in reviewing and reforming country laws and policies and to facilitate citizen input and accountability for implementation.
The underlying theory of change is that effective and sustainable responses for HIV/SRH will require a reduction of the stigma associated with HIV/SRH and most affected populations, a legal environment that is gender-sensitive and that enables access to and use of key prevention, treatment services and commodities and the political will to include and protect marginalized (young) key populations in policy and governance.


  • Project Name: Linking Policy and Programming: Strengthening Legal and Policy Environments for reducing HIV Risk and improving Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) for Young Key Populations in Southern Africa.
  • Target groups: Young sex workers of all genders, young men who have sex with men (MSM), young LGBTI
    community, young people who inject drugs and young prisoners
  • Age range: 10 – 24 years
  • Project countries: Angola, Madagascar, Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe.


For more information, contact Dr Tamaryn Crankshaw, Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights at HEARD: