While remarkable progress has been made in the global AIDS response, major inequalities persist and key populations of people who use drugs and people in prison are being left behind.
On a global scale, people who use drugs and people in prisons remain unequally vulnerable to and disproportionately affected by HIV. People who inject drugs are 35 times more likely to acquire HIV than adults in the general population, while people in prison are more than 6 times more likely to be living with HIV than adults in the general population. In 2020, key populations and their sexual partners accounted for 65% of HIV infections globally.
UNODC HIV/AIDS Section is continuously working to achieve universal access to comprehensive HIV services for people who use drugs and people in prisons, working towards the global goal of ending AIDS by 2030. UNODC HIV/AIDS Section has launched an grants initiative for Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) working all over the world, separated into three thematic areas: Drug Use and HIV, HIV in prisons, and HIV and law enforcement. In January 2021, a total of fifteen organizations from different geographic regions were awarded grants to implement projects in these three thematic areas.
On the occasion of World AIDS Day 2021, many of these UNODC CSOs grantees, from Egypt, India, Kenya, Moldova, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, and Vietnam, conducted activities to commemorate this special date, standing in solidarity with people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS.
Milestones Rehabilitation Foundation in Nigeria visited the community of people who use drugs on World AIDS Day to provide them with the voluntary HIV counselling, testing and referral, provision of safe injecting kits and IEC materials. During this community visit, CSO representatives explained how to dispose injecting equipment in a safe manner and helped individuals from the community with referrals to a drop-in unit for support services. During this one-day visit, 32 people who use drugs received services provided by this CSO’s team.
In Uganda, Multi Activists for Women and Youth Development Agency (MAWDA), who advocates for the rights of key population of people who use drugs and sex workers in slum areas in Kampala, organized special dialogue meetings to engage different stakeholders with the support of funding received from their UNODC CSO grant. These dialogue meetings facilitated stakeholders’ interest in proposing a special vote in the district government’s budget specifically for key populations to improve service delivery related to sexual and reproductive health and livelihood programs.
Another UNODC CSO grant recipient, Médecins du Monde (MdM) in Tanzania, conducted a series of events between 27th November – 1st December to commemorate World AIDS Day. The events included Ground Exhibitions of community services; participation in the Youth Day Climax by demonstrating with posters displaying advocacy messages that emphasized the need for the better policies for the community of people who use drugs; support for two community-based organizations (CBOs) to attend the World AIDS Campaign in Mbeya,including hotspots in Nonde and Mafiati, for sensitization of safe injecting, the use of condoms to prevent HIV infections, promotion of HIV Testing and Methadone education; and meeting with different stakeholders with the aim of sharing experiences and highlighting gaps that need to be addressed.
The focus of activities conducted by Lighthouse, UNODC grantee from Vietnam, was on the chemsex community and HIV. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Lighthouse team prepared World AIDS Day activities in virtual format, concentrating on social media outreach and communication. It posted several articles on their web site and Facebook fan page related to HIV prevention in the chemsex community. Lighthouse’s work and achievements were featured on the national TV channel VTV1 in Vietnam, highlighting the community role in supporting people who use drugs during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Executive Director of Lighthouse also joined YouthLEAD on behalf of young key population in the Asia Pacific region and spoke about the role of young key populations in ending inequalities, AIDS and pandemic. On 3 December the Lighthouse Community One-stop Clinic conducted an opening ceremony with participation of the Vietnam Administration of AIDS Control in the Ministry of Health, the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention and other stakeholders and community-based organizations.
Keeping Alive Societies’ Hope (KASH) from Kenya organized an event commemorating World AIDS Day on 1 December in Kisumu County with the theme, “End inequalities, End AIDS, End pandemics”, focusing specifically on adolescents and young people and teenage pregnancies. During this event KASH offered HIV testing services and shared information about safe sex, commodities to protect people from HIV and human rights responses. Mental health consultations were offered on the spot and provided support on such topics and problem drug use, trauma, depression and anxiety.
Moldovan CSO Positive Initiative commemorated World AIDS Day in collaboration with the National Administration of Penitentiaries. An online information session was conducted for all penitentiary institutions and was attended by the Administration’s subdivisions and detainees. Ms. Irina Barbîroș, head of the Administration’s Medical Department, Ms. Ina Vutcariov, head of activities for people in conflict with the law at the CSO "Positive Initiative", and special guest of the meeting Mr. Iurie Climașevschi, coordinator of the National HIV/AIDS Program, spoke to the audience about HIV prevention, treatment and care.
Al-Shehab Foundation for Comprehensive Development in Egypt organized three events to mark World AIDS Day, aiming to increase the response towards HIV/AIDS among its targeted communities, especially young people, and increase their awareness about HIV prevention, care, and treatment. A first Community awareness campaign was organized with a focus on the audience’s participation in sports and an information session. This campaign took place in a football complex located in the biggest slum area in Cairo, Ezzbet El Haggana, where Al-Shehab provides support to vulnerable population groups such as female sex workers, survivors of violence and people who inject drugs.
The event included small competitions and engaged both female and male participants. A total of 52 beneficiaries were reached by this campaign.
The second event community awareness campaign was delivered in two local CSOs at Al-Marg informal area, where HIV testing awareness campaigns were conducted. The testing awareness campaign focused on the key populations of people who use drugs and their partners, as well as sex workers, and reached 65 beneficiaries.
Finally, Al-Shehab organized an event in commemoration of World AIDS Day to increase the response related to HIV/AIDS in Egypt while engaging the key population of people who use drugs, as well as relevant stakeholders and other partners. This event started with an opening note to introduce Al-Shehab Foundation, which has operated since 2001 in the fight against HIV/AIDS by providing a comprehensive package of services to the most marginalized and vulnerable population groups. The opening note highlighted that with the help of a protocol signed with the Ministry of Health, Al-Shehab was now able to expand its geographical coverage to share its expertise in the fight against HIV/AIDS with other CSOs in five Egyptian Governorates. Dr. Walid Kamal, the UN representative and UNAIDS Country Manager, emphasized the efforts of the United Nations Organizations in the achievement of development in partnerships with governments and civil society organizations. A special documentary video was produced and screened during World AIDS Day. The documentary featured the Al-Shehab team and their services for key population groups.