With the Covid-19 pandemic having negatively affected the provision of HIV services, there are calls for the global community to direct more funds towards community-led organisations providing HIV services, as they are an important tool in the fight against HIV.
Speaking at the 24th International Aids conference in Montreal, Suki Beavers, Director of Gender, Equality, Human Rights and Community Engagement at UNAIDS, noted that ‘community led responses are a key element’ of the global strategy to put HIV responses back on track, and for the achievement of global targets by 2025.
“When communities can participate in decision making and service delivery, outcomes and impact improve greatly,” said Beavers.
“This is because community-led organisations are by nature designed to deliver services beyond HIV”, said Vuyiseka Dudula Majola, Director of the Africa Centre for HIV/Aids management at Stellenbosch University.
In a research study, Majola explored the impact of community led and people centered service delivery in the context of universal health coverage. She found that ‘by design, people centered community organisations deliver beyond HIV services’. Community-led responses to HIV also deliver services on health, social justice, inclusion, and economic development.
Majola said community-led HIV organisations offer several health-related services such as mental health care. They also provide food to communities although its not their role .
“Some of the organisations have also had to intervene and offer school fees to vulnerable children. Some have also started feeding schemes for vulnerable communities, and this really became an important pillar during the Covid-19 pandemic”, she said. “So, I challenge my colleagues from the global fund and many other foundations to think about how you fund HIV service delivery organisations.”
Time to double funding
The Covid-19 pandemic has left community organisations underfunded, and under more pressure despite the multi-faceted role they play.
“These organisations have had to really change the way they operate because of the pandemic. We now need to double our efforts in terms of funding, because some of them have lost staff members, and some of them have lost capacity. We need to think about how we are going to support and sustain these organisations and build lasting infrastructures,” said Majola.
But she was firm on one point: that when the Global Fund directs funds to community organisations, ‘they must not try to change the organisations’ identity.’
“We have to fund differently, and the funding has to be decolonial. These organisations know what they are doing.” she said.
This requires drastic but necessary shifts in funding from donors and governments. pic.twitter.com/vlVJ9ln2BX
— International Network of People who Use Drugs (@INPUD) July 29, 2022
Global HIV response is in danger
Both Majola and Beavers said failure to fund community-led organisatIions will derail progress made towards the 80-60-30 targets. It’s a critical moment in the HIV response as demonstrated by the UNAIDS ‘In Danger’ report released on 27 July. It found that ‘during the last two years of COVID-19 and other global crises, progress against the HIV pandemic has faltered, resources have shrunk, and millions of lives are at risk.’ In eastern and southern Africa, rapid progress from previous years slowed significantly in 2021.
“The global HIV response is indeed in danger”, warned Beavers. “In many countries and communities, we are now seeing rising numbers of new HIV infections and inequalities which are stalling progress in the HIV response.”-Health-e News