Strategies to prevent and mitigate the effects of violence and discrimination against female sex workers, men who have sex with men, transgender men and women, and people who inject drugs are essential components of any HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and treatment program targeting these key populations.
Nigeria cannot reach its UNAIDS goals to end AIDS by 2030 without specifically addressing the epidemics among key populations including female sex workers, men who have sex with men, transgender men and women, and people who inject drugs. Nigeria comprises the second largest HIV/AIDS epidemic globally and the rates of HIV infection among key populations in Nigeria are two to seven times higher than those of the general population. Unfortunately, however, same-sex behavior, sex work, and drug use are criminalized and highly stigmatized. Marginalized by law and society, key populations suffer from increased emotion, sexual, economic, and physical violence at the hands of law enforcement, families, community members, and partners with no recourse. This violence not only elevates the risk of HIV transmission but also represents a barrier to testing, diagnosis, treatment, adherence, retention in care, and viral load suppression, ultimately reducing the potential impact of prevention and treatment on HIV transmission, illness, and mortality.
The results of nine years of programming by Heartland Alliance International (HAI) through the “Integrated Most-at-Risk Populations HIV Prevention Program” (IMHIPP) support the inclusion of gender, mental health, and human rights components in programs targeting key populations in Nigeria and around the world.