Recently, UNAIDS (Nigeria) organized a forum for key populations in view of achieving the 90-90-90 target by the year 2020. This crucial forum brought together stakeholders, partners and most especially representatives of key populations (Female sex workers, Men who have sex with men, vulnerable women and girls, and people who inject drugs).
The objectives of the meeting were :
1. Sensitize on the ambitious target
2. Identify strategies to drive the target (90-90-90).
Issues were raised around the fact that most of these key populations were often left behind in HIV/AIDS response globally and in order to eliminate the epidemic by 2030 , they need to be actively involved in the process and targeted approaches have to be defined and implemented.
The 90-90-90 target set by UNAIDS is an ambitious one which seeks to achieve the following globally by year 2020:
a. 90% of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status
b. 90% of all people with diagnosed HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy.
c. 90% of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression.
UNAIDS presented a fact sheet at the forum to buttress why achieving the target requires a concerted effort, this can be seen at :
Participants broke out in groups to brainstorm on the following for key populations (KPs) :
1. Improve access to testing
2. Improve access to quality HIV care and treatment
3. Retain people on care and have the optimal outcome of treatment (viral suppression).
At the end of the group session , one thing was clear, key populations felt marginalized and under-served. Issues such as harassment, fear, stigma, lack of enabling environment and unfavorable policies were identified for making access to testing and treatment difficult.
On the way forward, the following strategies were identified :
– Government should ensure that KPs are actively involved in HIV/AIDS decision making processes.
– KPs should be trained as counselors and peer educators: this would empower them to reach their peers.
– Health facilities should be client friendly and free of discrimination.
– Capacity building (HCT, BCC, Adherence, etc.) should be conducted for KPs in order to strengthen their participation and involvement.
– Drop in centers should be created.
– KP support groups should be strengthened and empowered for those who are positive. etc.
This forum convened by UNAIDS is indeed very timely, as Nigeria works toward bridging HIV/AIDS treatment gaps and scaling up testing services. It was also great to hear the government representative reiterate the commitment of the government in ensuring that no one is left behind. Most notable, is the fact that the national strategic plan makes adequate provision for KPs.
We sincerely hope that UNAIDS and the government will continue to engage these key populations (KPs) at all levels.
From Red Ribbon advocate, we say a very big thank you to UNAIDS (Nigeria) for putting together this forum and providing an environment which made it easy for key population representatives to open up about their challenges and proffer plausible strategies.
For more information on the 90-90-90 target, and other UNAIDS strategies please visit : www.unaids.org