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 affected and at-risk groups 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 such settings, specific interventions to reach those at highest risk should be combined with broader efforts.
UNFPA supports a variety of programmes aimed at vulnerable or at-risk groups, such as women and young people affected or displaced by humanitarian crises, members of armed forces and out-of-school youth. In 2005, UNFPA was given lead responsibility within UNAIDS for prevention among those engaged in sex work.
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.