Protecting the health and human rights of vulnerable and marginalized groups is both an end in itself and an essential element of tackling the AIDS epidemic.
From a human-rights perspective, UNFPA is committed to assisting those who are most disenfranchised. On a practical level, prevention activities aimed at key populations can curtail the spread of the disease into the general population, especially in countries where HIV is low and concentrated among certain sub-groups. In all contexts key populations include sex workers, men who have sex with men, injecting drug users and transgender people. In such settings, specific interventions to reach those at highest risk should be combined with broader efforts.
UNFPA supports a variety of programmes for key populations. In 2005, UNFPA was given lead responsibility within UNAIDS for prevention among sex workers.
Often poverty, and the marginalization associated with it, contributes to vulnerability. Poverty may, for instance, force girls or women to trade sexual favours for food to feed their families, or prevent individuals from buying condoms. It can keep adolescents out of school, depriving them of an opportunity to find out about how the virus is transmitted, and putting them at greater risk of drug abuse and risky sexual encounters. It can exacerbate family tensions that lead to domestic violence. Addressing the underlying causes of vulnerability to infection, including poverty and gender equality, is critical to eventually ending the epidemic.