Integrating family planning and HIV services
For us, integrating family planning and HIV services makes perfect sense. Poor sexual and reproductive health and HIV infection share many of the same root causes: poverty, gender inequality, stigma and cultural norms. They also share many desired outcomes: dual protection, promotion of sexual and reproductive health and rights for all, and reduction in maternal, newborn and child mortality.
With so many connections between the two, we’re proud to be part of Link Up, a project that aims to integrate sexual and reproductive healthcare and HIV services to improve the lives of more than one million young people (aged 10 – 24) living with HIV in Bangladesh, Burundi, Ethiopia, Myanmar and Uganda.
Young people often remain untouched by family planning and HIV programmes, but Link Up aims to change this. The project recognises that young people remain at the centre of the HIV epidemic and they have the power, through their leadership, to help bring an end to AIDS. Marie Stopes International is working with the HIV/AIDS Alliance to deliver the project in Bangladesh, Myanmar and Uganda.
Making health services acceptable to young people
The objective of Link Up is to deliver family planning and HIV services that are both accessible and acceptable to young people. To achieve this our teams in Bangladesh and Uganda have trained staff and service partners on delivering youth-friendly, integrated services and involved young people from an early stage.
Marie Stopes Bangladesh invited over 350 young people to participate in identifying key areas where the branding and marketing of clinics could be adapted to make services more youth-friendly. The overwhelming response was that young people sought a friendly atmosphere where they felt free to talk about their problems in a dignified manner.
Marie Stopes Uganda plans to run a mass media campaign in 2014 that is developed by young people, for young people, and will engage all sectors of society to tackle the challenges youth face. Key to this will be engaging young people, encouraging and motivating them to take charge of their lives and feel the strength and power to make healthy decisions about their future.
Making health services accessible to youth
To expand access to family planning services, HIV counselling and testing and STI treatment, our teams in Uganda and Bangladesh have used a number of innovative service delivery methods.
In Uganda, we have used tuk-tuk outreach teams, established voucher schemes for services at clinics and offered free counselling services through the MS Uganda telephone hotline. In Bangladesh, outreach teams have delivered information and services in garment factories, bus and rail stations, and brothels.
Between July and October 2013, our Bangladesh outreach teams delivered services to almost 4,000 clients. In Uganda, our tuk-tuk outreach teams brought integrated information and services to over 700 young people and reached almost 8,000 through the MS Uganda telephone hotline.