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Focus on key populations in national HIV strategic plans in the African region

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The World Health Organization (WHO) defines key populations as populations who are at higher risk for HIV irrespective of the epidemic type or local context and who face social and legal challenges that increase their vulnerability. They include sex workers, men who have sex with men, transgender people, people who inject drugs, and people in prison and other closed settings. In addition to experiencing elevated.

HIV risk and burden and facing legal and social issues, these populations historically have not received adequate priority in the response to the HIV epidemic, especially in countries with generalized HIV epidemics.

National strategic plans (NSPs) play a vital role in fostering the understanding of and guiding the collective response to HIV epidemics. WHO commissioned a review of the most recent national strategic plans of 47 countries in the WHO African Region for their coverage of key populations. This review sought to identify strengths, gaps and weaknesses in the way that that these plans consider key populations. In particular, we assessed:

• how key populations and their HIV risk are represented in NSPs;
• whether the plans include epidemiologic information on the HIV epidemic among key populations;
• whether these plans include the WHO-recommended package of interventions for key populations; and
• the extent of involvement envisioned for key population communities in HIV interventions addressing these populations.

Based on the findings, we recommend improvements regarding the inclusion of key populations in the NSPs.