Heartland Alliance International (HAI) began working in Nigeria in 2009 with a large-scale effort to bring high quality and respectful HIV prevention services to some of the country’s most stigmatized groups. That effort has grown to become one of the largest USAID-funded HIV programs for key populations – including members of the LGBT community, sex workers, and people who inject drugs – in Sub-Saharan Africa.

More recently, HAI has expanded its programming in Nigeria to focus on the needs of women and girls, particularly those who are extremely marginalized and hard to reach. With a strong background in gender equity and expertise in trauma treatment and mental health, HAI has been training service providers to work with women and children who have been trafficked by Boko Haram and other militarized groups in Northeast Nigeria.

Learn more about HAI’s work in Nigeria:

Ensuring Equal Access to Healthcare

Background: Key Populations and HIV/AIDS

Nigeria has the second-largest HIV epidemic in the world: more than 3 million people are living with HIV, and key populations, including sex workers, men who have sex with men, and people who inject drugs, account for 40% of HIV infections. In addition, these groups – the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community in particular – face stigma, discrimination, and violence. The Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act of 2013 criminalized activities associated with homosexuality, penalizing offenders with up to 14 years in prison.

Programs: Ensuring Equal Access to Healthcare

HAI grows the capacity of key population-led grassroots organizations to provide discreet HIV services in an often hostile legal and cultural environment. HAI offers technical assistance for local community-based organizations, providing training in leadership, management, financial, and monitoring and evaluation skills. Many of these organizations have achieved extraordinary levels of sustainability and organizational growth.

  • Peer Education: HAI trains female sex workers and LGBT individuals as peer educators, conducting community-based outreach and HIV education, testing, and counseling.
  • Paralegal Training: HAI recognizes threats to key populations from security forces and the Nigerian legal system and trains paralegals from the LGBT and sex worker communities to immediately respond when individuals are arrested on unfair grounds.

Impact: Ensuring Equal Access to Healthcare

  • HAI has reached more than 200,000 individuals with quality HIV prevention interventions
  • HAI has trained nearly 400 peer educators and 85 paralegals to provide services to at-risk populations
  • In 2016, Nigeria Country Director Bartholomew Ochonye presented at the United Nations General Assembly High Level Meeting on Ending AIDS on a panel titled “Leaving No One Behind: Ending Stigma and Discrimination through Social Justice and Inclusive Society”
  • HAI facilitated a meeting with UNAIDS and diverse stakeholders – including government agencies and grassroots LGBT and sex worker organizations – considering the introduction of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) for at-risk populations in Nigeria
  • In January 2018, HAI, in partnership with USAID, presented a webinar on HAI’s work in Nigeria reaching the “3 90’s” for key populations. For more information about the webinar, click here.

 “In order to meet the UN’s commitment to ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030, we must address legal and policy frameworks that stigmatize and ignore key populations at risk for HIV/AIDS.”

– Nigeria Country Director Bartholomew Ochonye at the 2016 United Nations General Assembly High Level Meeting on Ending AIDS

Empowering Women

Background: Gender Equality

While the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria prohibits discrimination on the grounds of sex, significant gender gaps in education, economic empowerment, and political participation remain. Discriminatory laws, violence against women, and gender stereotypes continue to hinder gender equality.

 Programs: Empowering Women

HAI is committed to empowering adolescent girls and women in post-secondary institutions. HAI’s peer-facilitated programs build skills in leadership, decision-making, negotiation and influencing, financial literacy, and other areas.


Impact: Empowering Women

  • Partnered with the Department for International Development to implement Nigeria’s largest gender equality program

Protecting Victims of Trafficking

Background: Boko Haram

In Northeastern Nigeria, Jamāʻat Ahl as-Sunnah lid-da’wa wal-Jihād, also known as Boko Haram, has killed and kidnapped thousands of men, women, and children. 1.7 million Nigerians are internally displaced due to violence at the hands of Boko Haram and other militant groups. Young men and boys are often conscripted as child soldiers, while women and children are sexually exploited and forced to marry combatants. In 2014, Boko Haram kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls from the Chibok province, leading social justice advocates around the world to demand the group #BringBackOurGirls

Programs: Protecting Victims of Trafficking

In Northeastern Nigeria, HAI has conducted extensive assessments on the psychosocial and mental health needs of communities coping with violent extremism and is helping build the capacity of government and civil society organizations to support survivors of trauma. HAI trains social workers and community and grassroots leaders to provide comprehensive services, including shelter, community reunification and reintegration, and psychosocial support to former child soldiers, abductees, and trafficking survivors.

Impact: Protecting Victims of Trafficking:

  • Implemented efforts to protect women and children who have been trafficked by Boko Haram, including conducting trainings in Northeast Nigeria with government and civil society stakeholders on identifying and providing services to survivors of human trafficking, including former child soldiers and women and girls who have been trafficked by Boko Haram. To read about a recent training, click here.