Consolidated guidelines on the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care of HIV, viral hepatitis and STIs for key populations – Global
Key populations provide valuable input into development of new WHO guidelines
In 2020, global networks of key populations – including the International Network of People who Use Drugs (INPUD), Global Action for Trans Equality (GATE), Network of Sex Worker Projects (NSWP) and Gay Men’s Health Rights Global Action (MPACT) – were commissioned by WHO to conduct research on the values and preferences within their communities regarding HIV-related services, viral hepatitis and STIs. This research was used to inform the development of the new Consolidated guidelines on the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care of HIV, viral hepatitis and STIs for key populationslaunched on July 29, 2022 at AIDS2022 in Montreal, Canada.
To celebrate the launch of these important guidelines to improve the health and rights of key populations with respect to HIV, viral hepatitis and STIs, INPUD reached out to several study participants from the consumer community of drugs and asked them to briefly reflect on why research on the values and preferences of key populations is important and what the new guidelines mean in the context of their lives. Here are excerpts from their responses:
Why is it important to include the values and preferences of key populations living with and affected by HIV, viral hepatitis and STIs in the development of WHO guidelines for key populations?
“For people from marginalized and criminalized communities, it often feels like no one really listens to the knowledge we have to offer. The involvement of key populations in the development of the guidelines was essential to ensure that lived and lived experience was incorporated into the guidelines – not just being invited to comment once the guidelines were already developed. It happens too often and it is symbolic.
“Community involvement is important for many reasons, including because peers are best placed to detect and identify stigma and discrimination. By ensuring that the language of the guidelines is stigma-free and non-discriminatory, this sets the standard we expect of healthcare professionals who use the guidelines and provide services. It’s a practical way to show why our community needs to be at the heart of this kind of process.
“Peers are educated in the real-world contexts of living with or being at risk of contracting HIV, viral hepatitis and STIs, where the clinic meets the real world. We will not achieve the elimination of HIV and viral hepatitis without the valuable perspective, ideas and expertise of our peers.
Do WHO guidelines for key populations such as these make a tangible difference in the lives of people living with and affected by HIV, viral hepatitis and STIs, including people who inject drugs ?
“As a trans person who injects drugs and lives with HIV, I feel empowered through the consultation process to inform the guidelines. I was able to contribute to the global response to HIV, viral hepatitis and STIs with something much bigger than myself and my work at the community level.
“We always talk about how we can use policies and guidelines like these for our advocacy on behalf of people who use drugs. For example, we may use them to demand better services or human rights, but we may also use them to verify current guidelines, services, and programs and advocate for improvements.
“Sometimes materials like these may seem removed from our daily lives as people who inject drugs, but if those who provide harm reduction and other health services to people who people who inject drugs know the guidelines and use them, it can really change the way we experience these services by removing some of the barriers.
The 2016 WHO consolidated guidelines focused on HIV, the revised guidelines will focus on HIV, viral hepatitis and STIs among key populations. Was this change important to you?
“Moving beyond HIV to include viral hepatitis and STIs brings a more holistic perspective to the interactions between being a priority population and various risk factors – HIV does not operate in a vacuum.
“A lot can be shared and learned by collaborating on infectious diseases – at government, community, research and clinical levels. Issues of human rights, criminalization, stigma and discrimination all have an impact on HIV, viral hepatitis and STIs. The experience of stigma is a shared experience between priority communities.
“Many of us are affected by multiple conditions and experiences and there are so many intersectionalities, as a queer woman of color who injects drugs it makes sense to bring a broader view to these issues rather than trying to put people in narrow boxes. ”
What can be done to make people who inject drugs around the world aware of the new Guidelines for key populations?
“Well, community conversations are always a good place to start.”
“People who inject drugs are very connected. It is important to systematically and constantly remind people who inject drugs of their inherent value; we are beautiful human beings who deserve to be loved, to have our human rights respected and to be treated with respect, understanding and compassion. The guidelines support these key messages.
Acknowledgement: We thank INPUD for conducting the interviews and writing this article, as well as the INPUD study participants who generously gave their time and offered their insights.