The people at risk
HIV does not discriminate and can affect us all – but it disproportionately affects groups of people who are often marginalized, criminalized, and stigmatized because of gender, sexual orientation, or life circumstances. These groups are called Key Populations or vulnerable populations.
Key populations are central to the work that we do at AIDS-Fondet. Specifically we work with the men who have sex with men (MSM), transgender women, sex workers, and people living with HIV.
In addition we focus on a very large group of people who are vulnerable to HIV infection – young women and girls. Women are disproportionately affected by HIV in Sub-Saharan Africa – and as a key population they bear the brunt of the HIV epidemic in this region.
In many places in the world key populations’ human rights are not respected and they are easily among the most vulnerable in society.
Increased risk of HIV among key populations
Men who have
sex with men
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 tend to be uninformed about prevention and medicine, and the disadvantages they experience range from poor mental health and loneliness to poverty and unemployment.
At AIDS-Fondet we work to ensure full access to stigma-free healthcare and to provide factual and relevant and information about HIV, prevention, and medicine for Key Populations and young women.
Girls account for 8 out of 10 new HIV infections among 15-19 year olds in Sub-Saharan Africa.
In the age group 15-24 years young women are x2 as likely to get infected compared to young men.
Every week 5,000 girls and young women (15-24) are infected.
In 2020 women and girls accounted for 63% of all infections in Sub-Saharan Africa.
(UNAIDS Fact Sheet for 2020)
We build the capacity of partners to extend the reach and efficiency of their work to ensure the greatest possible impact.
We provide training on advocacy and communication to enable partners to amplify important messages and information to counter misinformation and bigotry – and ultimately to affect lasting change to the laws and the structures that form the backbone of a system keeping criminalization and discrimination alive.
The only viable approach to slowing – and ultimately ending – the AIDS epidemic starts with focusing on and collaborating closely with the most marginalised and vulnerable groups.
Their lives and their experiences must inform any intervention for it to have any meaningful and lasting impact.
Rikke Nagell – Head of International Programmes
The attitudes we work to change
If you wish to change norms, attitudes, beliefs and the context where discrimination happens, you need to work with the enablers of discrimination. People who have a stake in discriminating against people who are part of the key and vulnerable populations.
That is why AIDS-Fondet also targets opinion makers, people in power, as well as people who have a duty to respect, promote, and realize human rights – but who do not always do that.
If this broad and diverse group of people can change their attitude to vulnerable people it can have a tremendous effect on the AIDS epidemic.
- Police officers
- Health service providers (nurses, doctors)
- Religious and traditional leaders
- Government officials
- Bar, lodge, brothel and club managers
Male Champions - local allies
James was jerked away from his Bao board game when sex workers came running to the bar alerting the group of men that a fellow sex worker, Aida, was being attacked in one of the rooms around the back.
The men quickly ran to the room and found Aida tied to the bed, badly beaten, bleeding from injuries sustained trying to fight off the client who had attacked her. Her arm was broken.
James and his friends subdued the violent client and took him to the police station.
Aida was helped by her friends and could attend to her injuries.
Male Champions – who they are and what they do
James Piyasi is a ‘male champion’ leader – and the group of men who helped Aida are all so-called ‘male champions’.
Male champions are men who have their daily routine in or around the hotspots where sex workers also ply their trade.
James and his friends were all identified as potential sex worker allies and after agreeing to help protect and support sex workers, they have received training on legal as well as rights issues that help them help the sex workers.
Ensuring justice is served
The male champions tracked and documented the case of the violent client up to the point where they were satisfied that justice was served.
The perpetrator was convicted and sentenced to serve six years in prison with hard labour.
The idea of including men who work in and around hotspots for sex work was developed by AIDS-Fondet and Action Hope Malawi jointly – and after piloting the idea Action Hope Malawi has formally integreated the male champions model into their programme work relating to sexworkers.
The Malawi programme (2022-2025) is funded by CISU.
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.