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BACKGROUND: A common misconception about HIV/AIDS in Africa is that the epidemic is similar across the continent. Nothing could be further from truth. While the virus affects a large proportion of the heterosexual adult population in East and Southern Africa, in West Africa the epidemic (with the exception of Nigeria) is smaller, slower, and largely concentrated in highly vulnerable populations. While only 1.3% of the adult population is infected in Ghana, HIV prevalence within some key populations is much higher. For example, the Ghanaian government estimates that HIV prevalence among female sex workers, men who have sex with men (MSM), and prisoners is 13%, 18%, and 6% respectively. These highly vulnerable populations were the focus of research at the BU Center for Global Health and Development (CGHD) that was conducted in partnership with Ghanaian collaborators at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Kumasi. In a multi-study project funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), CGHD and KNUST collected detailed qualitative information from young sex workers, MSM, prisoners, injection drug users, students, and people living with HIV to better understand their specialized needs. Our goal through this collection of studies was to provide information to the Ghanaian government, donors, and service providers who design and implement programs aimed at preventing HIV infection and providing appropriate services for these key populations.

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