Whereas HIV does not discriminate and can affect each and every one of us, it effects some people in the world more than others. People that are just like everyone else but whose gender, sexual orientation, or life circumstances puts them at risk.
Key populations are central to the work that we do at AIDS-Fondet – they include men who have sex with men (MSM), transgender women, sex workers, people who inject drugs, and people in prison and detention.
These groups are often discriminated against, stigmatized, and sometimes criminalized. In many places in the world, the human rights of key populations are not respected and they are easily among the most vulnerable in society.
Increased risk of HIV among key populations
People who injects drugs
Men who have sex with men
Young girls and women
Globally some 5,500 girls and young women were infected by HIV in 2020 – and in Sub-Saharan Africa five in six new infections among adolescents aged 15-19 are girls. Young women aged 15-24 are twice as likely to be living with HIV as the males in the same group. In 2020 women and girls accounted for 59% of all new infections in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Even if young women and girls are not categorized as a key population, they are at great risk of contracting HIV – especially if they live in Sub-Saharan Africa. The high level of infection in this group of people is a defining trait of the epidemic in this region.
Living with HIV as a key population or woman
Key populations (KPs) and girls and young women in Sub-Saharan Africa are most at risk of contracting HIV, and if they already have it they are more likely to not know, not get treatment and as a result to pass it on to others – adding fuel to the epidemic.
They are less likely to have proper access to health care – due to the fear of discrimination and stigma – they are likely to be uninformed about prevention and medicine, and the disadvantages they experience range from poor mental health and loneliness to poverty and unemployment.
Focus on the most vulnerable groups – and on the goal
AIDS-Fondet works specifically with key populations and young women and girls as these are the groups where the AIDS epidemic is most stubborn. Whereas tremendous advances have been made and HIV medicine today is cheap and widely available – also in Sub-Saharan Africa – the epidemic is not letting go of these groups fast enough to reach the Sustainable Development Goal (3.3) of zero new infections by 2030.
Unless we act and make a concerted effort to focus on these, the most vulnerable groups. And unless we bring HIV/AIDS back to the top of the agenda.