Scaling-Up HIV Responses with Key Populations in West Africa

April 2015 - Structural Prevention

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Wheeler, T., Wolf, R. C., Kapesa, L., et al. Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes (March 2015), Issue 68, Supplement 2, pp. S69-S73.

HIV prevalence among men who have sex with men in West and Central Africa (WCA) is between 13.5 percent and 25.3 percent, and prevalence among female sex workers is at least eight times higher than in the general population; there are very few studies on people who inject drugs and transgender women. However, HIV responses in most WCA countries do not focus on key populations. This article summarized new studies that improve understanding of the HIV epidemic in WCA's key populations and recommended ways to target these populations effectively with HIV services. The authors stressed that all WCA countries should define a specific key population strategy within their national HIV strategic and operational plans. This approach should include soliciting inputs from members of key populations who can fill gaps in data to inform the response. Interventions for key populations should be comprehensive, including both immediate access to HIV and other health services and interventions to address structural issues, such as violence and community empowerment. Budgetary and other resources should be prioritized to address the disproportionate burden of HIV and poor access to services among key populations. The authors emphasized the importance of ensuring development of human rights-based policies, access to HIV services, and organizational development as critical strategies for addressing HIV in these populations.

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