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Improving young people’s sexual and reproductive health in low-income settings

The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine is to play a leading role in a new UK Government funded consortium that aims to boost global sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).
SRHR Uganda. Image Credit: Daniel McCartney/IPPF

Contraception and safe abortion care services, HIV/STI prevention, treatment and care, and comprehensive sexuality education are extremely poor for marginalised groups in many parts of the world. Announced by the UK Department for International Development, Approaches in Complex and Challenging Environments for Sustainable SRHR (ACCESS) Consortium seeks to create innovative solutions to ensure that groups such as young people, disabled people and refugees are not left behind.

The Consortium will be led by the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) and was selected within the UK Aid Connect programme. Frontline AIDS, the Women’s Refugee Commission, the Open University and Internews will bring a range of expertise that will generate sustainable, scalable, rights-based approaches to deliver comprehensive SRHR to all.

Despite progress there remain multiple complex and interconnected barriers that impede universal access to SRHR. Access to rights-based services, such as contraception and comprehensive sexuality education, is often compromised or denied, and barriers to achieving SRHR, including sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), may disproportionately affect marginalised groups

LSHTM’s role in the Consortium will be led by the Dialogue, Evidence, Participation & Translation for Health (DEPTH) research team in collaboration with academic staff from across the institution.

Professor Cicely Marston, ACCESS Principal Investigator at LSHTM, said: “We are delighted to be a part of this important collaboration. Certain groups are often left behind, particularly in complex and challenging environments such as humanitarian settings. Policy barriers, lack of understanding about the needs and preferences of marginalised groups, and ineffective interventions all contribute to inadequate sexual and reproductive health and rights.

“We will take a participatory approach, using the latest methodologies to work with partners and beneficiaries to develop and test the effectiveness of a range of interventions, generate new evidence and make recommendations that will improve people’s health and wellbeing.”

IPPF and LSHTM have a long-established history of collaboration based on the need to turn research into action. The two organisations worked on the five-year programme Integra Initiative, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to analyse the potential benefits, effectiveness and challenges of integrating HIV and sexual and reproductive health services in Africa.

IPPF Director General, Dr Alvaro Bermejo welcomed the partnership. He said: “We bring distinct areas of expertise and are united by a shared commitment to improving the lives of the most marginalised populations. We critically need to work together to develop new and innovative approaches for bringing sexual and reproductive health and rights for those most in need.”