On 29 July 2022, a specialized agency of the United Nations named WHO published new Consolidated guidelines on HIV, viral hepatitis, and STI prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and care for key populations.
Consolidated guidelines are officially launched at the Conference of AIDS 2022 in Montreal, Canada.
The guidelines outline a public health response to HIV, viral hepatitis, and STIs or sexually transmitted infections for 5 key populations (men who have sex with men, sex workers, trans, and gender diverse people, individuals who inject drugs, and individuals in prisons and other closed settings).
The agency promotes evidence and rights depending on the approach in order to address all these health issues which put key populations at the center of the response.
According to Erika Castellanos, Director of programs at GATE (the Global Action for Trans Equality), who was the co-chair of the WHO Guidelines Development Group, “Key populations must be prioritized, in every setting and this means as outlined in these new guidelines, planning to reach them foremost with the prevention, testing, treatment and prioritizing the key populations in funding programmes.”
Specifically for key populations, social, legal, structural, and other contextual factors both enhance vulnerability to HIV, viral hepatitis, and sexually transmitted infections and obstruct access to health and certain other crucial services.
Findings from UNAIDS demonstrate that approximately 70% of new HIV infections emerge among key populations and their partners. In most territories, limited access, inadequate coverage, and deficient quality of services for key populations continue to undermine responses to HIV, viral hepatitis, and STIs,” uttered Meg Doherty, Director of World Health Organization’s Global HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexually Transmitted Infections Programmes.
“All territories must prioritize reaching these key populations and assisting key population communities to lead the response and furnish equitable, accessible, and sustainable services to these populations,” Meg Doherty added.
Moreover, to highlight the requirement to address the structural barriers and provide prioritized packages of health services for each of the 5 key populations, new suggestions are made for the delivery of services such as virtual/online interventions and the critical role of peer navigators in order to guide individuals of key population groups with the help of health services.
Other new areas of suggestions include addressing chemsex, frequency of HCV testing for individuals at ongoing risk of infection and providing treatment for HCV without any delay to individuals with recently acquired HCV infection and ongoing risk.
These consolidated guidelines also acknowledge that the behavioral interventions aimed at changing behaviors; which tend to be prioritized in various settings; have no influence on the incidence of HIV, viral hepatitis, and sexually transmitted infections or on behavior change.