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WASHINGTON, Dec 1, CMC – Two new studies by the World Bank suggest that better prevention, care, and treatment services for sex workers and drug users could play a significant role in ensuring a world free of the HIV/AIDS virus. The studies form part of a series on key populations at higher risk in low- and middle-income countries, such as those in the region. In June 2011, the World Bank launched the first study, which focused on men who have sex with men. “In many countries, sex workers, people who inject drugs, and men who have sex with men remain marginalized in society and vulnerable to HIV,” said David Wilson, World Bank Global AIDS Program Director. “Even in countries with epidemics in the general population, these groups are disproportionately affected by the epidemic. Effective interventions not only protect members of these marginalized communities, but also make a major contribution to averting a wider epidemic,” he added. Sex workers, people who inject drugs and men who have sex with men are at significantly higher risk of HIV infection than other groups in low- and middle-income countries, Wilson said. According to a recently released UNAIDS report, among countries with generalized epidemics, HIV prevalence is consistently higher among sex workers in the capital city than in the general population, at around 23 per cent. It said about three million of the 16 million people worldwide who use drugs are living with HIV ad that HIV infection among men who have sex with men in capital cities is on average 13 times higher than in the general population. The World Bank, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health collaborated on the sex workers study titled “ The Global HIV Epidemic among Sex Workers” which found that a community empowerment approach to HIV prevention, treatment, and care is cost-effective, with significant projected impact on HIV incidence among sex workers and transmission beyond the sex worker community. According to the study, globally, HIV disproportionately affected sex workers in low- and middle-income countries. It says the overall HIV prevalence among female sex workers was 11.8 percent, with the prevalence in Sub-Saharan Africa at 36.9 percent. Across all regions, prevalence among female sex workers was 13.5 times the overall HIV prevalence among the general population of women ages 15-49. The study says sex workers continue to face heightened social and structural vulnerabilities to HIV. The study emphasizes the central importance of adopting a rights-affirming, empowerment-based approach to scale up comprehensive HIV services, and addressing stigma, discrimination, and violence against sex workers.