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Targeting areas of unmet needs

HIV has had a global impact, but some populations have been more impacted than others. Here we identify the areas of unmet need for communities affected by HIV and demonstrate how our partnerships are addressing those needs.


Globally, women are disproportionately affected by HIV and AIDS. In 2012, women accounted for 40% of all people living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa, the region hit hardest by the epidemic.7 In Asia, the number of women living with HIV nearly doubled between 2000 and 2008.1 

Preventing Transmission of HIV from Mother to Child

HIV transmission from mother to child can occur during pregnancy, birth or breast feeding. In regions with a high prevalence of HIV among women of reproductive age, children and adolescents have inevitably become a risk group. Despite progress, 905 children still become infected with HIV every single day.7

Our Positive Action for Children Fund supports organisations to deliver prevention of mother-to-child HIV services and advocacy.

Men Who Have Sex with Men (MSM)

In many parts of the world, homosexuality is highly stigmatised, and sometimes criminalised. For example, in sub-Saharan Africa, more than 37 countries have laws prohibiting same-sex activity between consenting adults.4 Elsewhere, there is an increase in the number of HIV among MSM in North America, Western Europe and Australia, tied to an increase in high-risk sexual behaviour.

Learn more about our partnership with the Global Forum on MSM and HIV to empower MSM and transgender indivuduals.

Commercial Sex Workers

Because of exposure to many different sexual partners and an increased frequency of unprotected sex, commercial sex workers are at high risk of contracting HIV. They are often subject to rape and violence, and are often not empowered to access condoms or demand their use. Other factors such as stigma and marginalisation, lack of protective legislation or policies, and lack of access to health, social and legal services, increase the vulnerability of this group.

Injecting Drug Users (IDU)

This group is one of the highest risk groups for HIV due to needle sharing. The prevalence of HIV infection is at least 22 times higher among people who inject drugs than for the population as a whole.6

Globally, around 16 million people inject drugs and 3 million of them are living with HIV.7 In Eastern Europe, according to a 2007 report, use of contaminated equipment was the source of 57% of newly diagnosed cases.1 

Find out how Positive Action grantee Vancouver Native Health Society launched The DUDES' Club for this population.

Prison Populations

Prisoners can be an isolated community that often have little access to HIV prevention, education, treatment or support. As a result, HIV is often spread among the incarcerated, most commonly via injecting drug use or sexual contact.

Transgender Populations

Individuals are often vulnerable, marginalised and isolated from HIV treatment and prevention campaigns. On average they have more sexual partners, lower condom use and increased involvement in substance abuse. The high prevalence of these risk factors makes them extremely vulnerable to HIV infection.

Find out more about the Vida Digna project.

Young People

Individuals between the ages of 15 and 24 are at increasing risk of HIV. Estimates put the infection rate among this population at nearly 5 million, with over 2,400 infected every day in 2011.8 Women are disproportionally affect with infection rates twice as high as in young men.

Positive Action for Children Fund grantees International Planned Parenthood Federation & Family Health Options Kenya collaborated on the Adolescents Count Today project to empower young people living with or affected by HIV in Kenya. Take a tour of the project and find out more.

Overcoming Stigma and Discrimination

Throughout the world, stigma and discrimination have a profound impact on the populations most vulnerable to HIV and AIDS. This is a significant problem even in the developed world. For example, the percentage of people living with HIV who reported discriminatory attitudes among employers and co-workers ranged from 8% in Estonia to 54% in Malaysia. 7
Discrimination commonly extends further than this, to actual loss of job or income, verbal insults and physical harassment, assault and sometimes death due to HIV associated violence.7 Stigma and discrimination are two of the major issues that prevent people living with HIV from accessing healthcare in the community.

Our Positive Action at Work materials have been created for you to freely use to help raise awareness and reduce stigma and discrimination in the workplace. You can find all the resources here.

Access to Accurate Information and Education

At the heart of many of the issues surrounding HIV is a lack of education. Reaching out to educate communities about prevention, treatment and managing their risk of infection is a big challenge, especially for vulnerable and marginalised groups. But it is instrumental to overcoming the epidemic. We can provide sufficient services, but without people understanding how to access the services and change their behaviour, there will be limited benefit.

We collaborated with NAM to provide trustworthy information that helps support people living with HIV and healthcare professionals.

Access to Medicines

Although more than 8 million people are now receiving antiretroviral drugs (ARVs), according to WHO guidelines there are another 7 million people worldwide who need to be on therapy.9

The barriers to access are complex and challenging. They touch on all aspects of delivering healthcare in resource-poor settings and need a multi-stakeholder response.

Find out more about approach to access to medicines.