Purpose of review: Globally, HIV infection remains a significant issue for key populations such as men who have sex with men (MSM) and female sex workers. A review of recent articles was conducted for west African countries to assess the burden of disease among female sex workers and MSM, access to services and identify barriers to implementation of services for key populations.
Recent findings: In west Africa, key populations engage in high-risk practices for the acquisition of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. Available HIV prevalence data fluctuate across and within countries for both MSM and female sex workers and may be five to ten times as high as that of the general population. HIV prevalence varied from 15.9% in The Gambia to 68% in Benin among female sex workers, whereas it ranged from 9.8% in The Gambia to 34.9% in Nigeria for MSM. Yet, important data gaps exist, including key populations size estimations in several countries as well as HIV prevalence, incidence and other biomarkers of HIV risk. Because of sociocultural, legal, political and economic challenges, exacerbated by a poor health system infrastructure, the HIV response is not strategically directed toward programs for key populations in countries with concentrated epidemics. Noteworthy is the low coverage of prevention care and treatment interventions offered to key populations.
Summary: Sufficient planning and political will with legal and structural frameworks that reconcile public health and human rights are needed to prioritize HIV prevention, care and treatment programming for key populations programs in west Africa.