HIV prevention “key focus” of Global Fund’s new executive director

The need to focus more on HIV prevention has been highlighted by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria’s new executive director Peter Sands today, as he met with directors from the Alliance’s Linking Organisations.

Condoms© Corrie Wingate for the Alliance

The Alliance is one of the largest civil society partnerships engaged with the Global Fund and plays a crucial role at every level of the Fund’s architecture, from policy development to implementation.

Praising this vital partnership, Mr Sands said he agreed civil society’s role in the global HIV response is “not a luxury” as it can provide “more on the practicalities of what is actually happening on the ground and where things are working and where things aren’t working."

Mr Sands said he saw as key the way civil society is uniquely positioned to let the Global Fund know “when there’s a disconnect between the world as perceived in Geneva [where the Global Fund is based] and the world…in Jakarta or Delhi or wherever it may be.”

Making reference to the progress being made on tuberculosis, Mr Sands described it as “a very powerful example of where, if you rely purely on classic biomedical interventions you don’t actually move the dial, you don’t get where you want to get to.”

Discussing what he sees as a key priority for the global HIV response, Mr Sands said “a lot of focus on prevention” was needed in order to end the epidemic.

He added: “If you don’t stop the initial flow of people who get infected you’re always going to be on the back foot, you’re always going to be fighting a losing battle…This has quite profound implications for the way we think about what we do.”

A vital partnership for key populations

Mr Sands then heard presentations from Sonal Mehta, Chief Executive of India HIV/AIDS Alliance, and Madiarra Coulibaly Offia, Executive Director Alliance Cote d’Ivoire, on how the Alliance’s partnership with the Global Fund has helped to prevent HIV among key populations and improved Global Fund grant performance and management.

Summing up the session, Christine Stegling, the Alliance’s executive director, commended Mr Sands for his emphasis on prevention. But she highlighted the need to “better tap into” resources within the Global Fund in order to implement prevention programmes in countries that have agreed to make it a priority.

She added: “We also need to focus on transition, as middle income countries are where the majority of people living with HIV live, and increasingly where the majority of poor people live, yet where it is going to be very challenging for governments to continue to fund vulnerable populations.

It weighs heavily on our mind that this process may result in us losing those community systems that have been invested in for so long.

“As we look to the future of the HIV response, we need to work together to find need new ways of engaging to ensure these important community systems continue to exist.”