Key populations

 Side event to the Civil Society Hearings on HIV and AIDS April 2016Transgender people in Argentina advocating for the passing of the gender identity law. Photo: UNAIDS

Key populations are communities of people most vulnerable to HIV infection, these include men who have sex with men, sex workers, drug users and transgender people. Female sex workers, men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs and transgender women are respectively 14 times, 19 times, 22 times and 49 times, more likely to acquire HIV than the general adult population.

Key populations are marginalized and stigmatized. Harmful legal environments and practices, not founded on human rights, exclude or punish those that are marginalized. They also perpetuate stigma and discrimination by dehumanizing and criminalizing those who are most vulnerable and they place a disproportionate burden on those affected by HIV. Laws often mirror and fuel the social intolerance and discrimination that key populations endure, driving them underground and making it difficult for them to access essential social services like HIV prevention, treatment and care.

Evidence shows that rights-based approaches, protective and enabling legal environments reduce vulnerability to HIV. They ensure that those marginalized are able to access the services that they require and they allow affected communities to participate in planning and implementing effective interventions.

UNDP promotes the rights of key populations and advocates for their participation in policy development, governance and programming. UNDP also promotes attention to the role of legal environments in the HIV response by working with governments, civil society and UN partners to promote the rights of key populations.   

For example, a joint qualitative analysis was undertaken by UNDP and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) together with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBTI) organizations and community leaders to understand the challenges faced by LGBTI people in Asia. The study covers Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Mongolia, Nepal, the Philippines, Thailand, and Viet Nam.