Working to Advance Health Equity in Africa



Linking policy to programming: A research project on young key populations in SADC countries

HEARD embarks on an extensive research project on young key populations in SADC countries, in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme and African Men for Sexual Health and Rights. 

We’ve successfully obtained a large research grant to conduct operational research on young key populations in Angola, Madagascar, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The research is embedded in a larger project that aims to strengthen the legal and policy environment for these groups in order to reduce stigma and discrimination of young key populations and improve their access to sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services. Whilst the five countries will feature prominently, the project will engage the SADC region as a whole in its endeavors. HEARD hosted the official launch of the project, bringing the key project staff of UNDP and African Men for Sexual Health and Rights (AMSHeR) as well as a core team of HEARD researchers together, at its offices on the Westville Campus of the University of KwaZulu-Natal. In the next four years, HEARD will conduct different pieces of research in-country as well as across countries covering key thematic areas that concern young key populations, such as exclusion, gender identity, risk behavior, violence and service barriers.

Project Rationale
Young key populations in Southern Africa face significant barriers to accessing HIV and 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.

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. This project seeks to 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. The long-term objective of the project is to improve sexual and reproductive health outcomes for young key populations in SADC countries. At medium-term, the project seeks to strengthen HIV/SRH related rights of young key populations in law, policy and strategy in five SADC Countries. The project focuses on young sex workers of all genders, young men who have sex with men, young lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people, young people who inject drugs and young prisoners.

HEARD’s Role
Under Professor Poku, a HEARD core team of highly qualified and experienced researchers will undertake baseline studies in each of the five countries, collaborating with local research institutions and project partners on the ground. One of the objectives of this baseline is to identify research gaps as well as the most pertinent questions for the operational research component of the project. The operational research will take place in each of the five countries on context-specific questions, whilst cross-cutting themes will serve as a basis for cross-country research and comparative analyses. As this type of research on young key populations in the five countries is very limited, HEARD seeks to proactively share the knowledge and resources derived from this project – as well as other ongoing research projects of HEARD on SRH – through a portal with a wider audience. Its core researchers will contribute to the portal on a regular basis, aiming to build up country profiles of the SRH and young key populations contexts that scientists, policymakers, non-governmental organizations, but also students, can use to rapidly increase their knowledge on these issues. HEARD will make more information on this portal available in due course.

Return to list

Related news


CAREERS: Visiting Professor / Visiting Assistant Professor

HEARD invites applications for a one-year position, (2018 academic year), as Visiting Professor / Visiting Assistant Professor in any of the following areas: The Future Health Financing in Eastern and Southern Africa Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Universal Health Coverage HIV ...>>


HEARD at #AIDSImpact2017: Live Updates

HEARD researchers are live at the @AIDSImpact conference currently underway in Cape Town, South Africa. We’ll be sharing updates from their research presentations and discussions around key populations, health systems, HIV prevention and health financing. Tweet #AIDSImpact Tweets by HEARD_UKZN


HEARD PhD graduate appointed as Visiting Scientist at Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health

Dr Bereket Yakob Yota, a recent graduate of HEARD’s PhD Programme at UKZN has been appointed as a visiting scientist at the prestigious Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health. Dr Yota who graduated with a PhD at the University of KwaZulu Natal in 2016, has been selected to contribute to the ...>>


HEARD hosts high-level retreat for Universal Health Coverage

HEARD recently hosted the second in a series of high-level retreats around domestic financing and prioritisation of health under the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, better known as SDGs. The meeting took place at the Thanda Private Game Reserve in Hluhluwe, South Africa between 28 ...>>


World AIDS Day: Getting key populations on the Fast-Track

December 1 marked World AIDS Day. A brief moment reflection our recent achievements in the fight against HIV and AIDS point to some significant victories. Globally, we have more scientific knowledge on how the virus is transmitted with prevention and treatment options being tailored to suit ...>>


UN: HIV rate in young African women disturbingly high

ARV treatment on the rise, but UN urges urgent action as thousands of young women continue to be infected with HIV. The number of HIV-infected people taking anti-retroviral (ARV) medicine has doubled in just five years, the United Nations said while highlighting high infection rates among young ...>>


2017 PhD Scholarships – Developing African Academics

HEARD’s Scholarship Programme aims to emphasise the mastery of quantitative and qualitative methods for understanding policy problems and for devising, evaluating and/or implementing policy solutions. The aim of providing PhD scholarships is to produce expertly qualified graduates to advise or ...>>


Frank Tanser shares results from a population-based cohort in rural KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa on the application of geospatial analyses to reveal targets for intervention

Frank Tanser an infectious disease epidemiologist with specialist expertise in geographical information systems technology, shares results from a population-based cohort in rural KZN, on the application of geospatial analyses to reveal targets for intervention. About the speaker: Frank Tanser ...>>


Why do HIV prevention programmes fail to reach at risk men?

The case of voluntary male medical circumcision roll out in South Africa A promising HIV prevention strategy aimed specifically at young men is voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC), as men who have been medically circumcised are 60% less likely to contract HIV through male to female ...>>


13 ART adherence challenges faced by MSM & LGBTI living with HIV in Kampala, Uganda

It is now possible for antiretroviral therapy (ART) to reduce viral load of HIV to the point where an infected person is no longer, or much less, infectious to others. As a result, ‘treatment as prevention’ has become the cornerstone of UNAIDS’s post-2015 global strategy to end AIDS by 2030. As ...>>