Key Populations Reach Programme, which started in 2016 ends this year following a Regional Learning Symposium of eight countries held in South Africa this week.
The programme was aimed at reducing HIV infections and HIV-related deaths among key populations in Southern Africa through improved access to HIV prevention, testing and treatment. The key population includes sex workers, Men having sex with Men (MSM), transgender persons and Women having Sex with Women. Funded by the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria at the tune of USD 11,4 million, KP Reach Programme was implemented by HIVOS in partnership with other African organisations.
The eight countries include Botswana, Namibia, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Lesotho, among others, accounting for 81 percent of people living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa. One of the representatives from HIVOS, Sithembile Chiware said that the aim was to strengthen Regional KP Networks and their member organisations at country level, that would impact on advocacy for policy change and change in the attitudes and beliefs aimed at reducing HIV incidence and mortality among Key Populations.
“KP Reach created a safe space through strengthening networking and partnerships among key populations in the region, evidence generation for advocacy, strategic behaviour communication to change attitudes towards key populations and capacity building of networks and affiliated stakeholders,” she said.
Lesbians, Gays, and Bisexuals of Botswana, SESONKE and Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS are represented from Botswana. Topics for discussion included Reducing stigma and discriminations through various campaigns; Evidence for Change in the community; and Community story-telling, among others. There are also representatives from United Nations and National AIDS Councils.
Studies conducted in Southern Africa have found HIV prevalence to be 10-20 times among sex workers than among adults in the general population, with rates of HIV infection reaching 50 percent of all sex workers tested, and HIV prevalence among men who have sex with other men is nine times higher than the general population in Southern Africa.