Working to Advance
Health Equity in Africa

Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights

The improvement of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) in East and Southern Africa (ESA) is vital under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and is a priority research area for HEARD. With the growing ‘demographic bulge’ of sexually active young adults in the African region, the right to accessible, high-quality sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services is clearly fundamental.  However, progress on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) priorities is insufficient. While AIDS-related deaths have declined as a result of ‘treatment as prevention’ programmes, new HIV infections persist. Higher rates of HIV infection are linked to other SRHR trends, such as unwanted pregnancies and poor access to contraception services, including abortion services. They are also linked to high rates of gender based violence (GBV) and harmful practices based on discriminatory cultural and gender norms. A number of highly vulnerable groups, including key populations, remain poorly addressed or excluded by HIV and other SRH programmes, largely as a result of discriminatory laws and policies, but also by deeply held social and cultural prejudices.

This research programme is dedicated to understanding the contribution of the complex structural challenges underlying poor SRH outcomes in the ESA region, determining priorities and finding the most efficacious and cost-effective means of delivering positive health outcomes. The research aims to generate robust and evolving evidence to inform high-level dialogue and decision-making, innovative and strategic policy-making, and targeted interventions and practices to shifting negative SRH trends and reverse their profound impacts on health and development for all.