Heartland Alliance International (HAI) provides high quality, stigma-free healthcare to communities disproportionately impacted by HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Since 2009, HAI has worked at the intersection of healing and justice to develop and implement effective programs to successfully reach heavily stigmatized and hard-to-access populations in Nigeria and Côte d’Ivoire with comprehensive HIV and STI services.
While the number of new HIV infections among adults has not increased globally since 2010, key populations – including men who have sex with men, female sex workers, and people who inject drugs – are most vulnerable to contracting HIV infections.
Individuals from key populations are often highly marginalized, facing stigma and, in some countries, penalization for engaging in same-sex sexual relationships, sex work, or drug use. As a result, these groups receive little attention from health care providers and sometimes fear accessing mainstream health care services.
HAI believes access to stigma-free health care is a human right. We partner with peer-led grassroots organizations to provide HIV/AIDS and STI care to key populations in Nigeria and Côte d’Ivoire. HAI works to strengthen these local organizations, empowering them to provide discreet, compassionate, and competent services in an often hostile legal and cultural environment. HAI trains these organizations in leadership, management, financial, and monitoring and evaluation skills and uses a peer educator model to reach marginalized and hidden populations.
Peer educators provide HIV/AIDS and STI care through one-on-one and group discussions, sharing information about risk reduction and facilitating behavior change. Peer educators also promote lubricant and condom use, HIV testing and care, and STI screening and treatment. By training female sex workers and LGBTQI+ individuals as peer educators and as paralegals, HAI provides marginalized communities with access to services they otherwise wouldn’t have, while also empowering them with the skills and confidence to effect change around them.