Tough times call for strong leadership from UNAIDS

That is the view of a coalition of civil society organisations, including the Alliance, which released a statement in response to the new UNAIDS 2016-2021 strategy which was approved at the UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board (PCB) in Geneva this week.

The statement was made on behalf of Stop AIDS Alliance, AIDS Fonds/STOP AIDS NOW!, the Interagency Coalition on AIDS and Development (ICAD), the Global Network of People Living with HIV (GNP+), and the Alliance. The statement appears in full below.

“We applaud UNAIDS for the strong, open and broad consultation process to update the UNAIDS strategy, and acknowledge the hard work of the Secretariat, co-sponsors, civil society organisations and member states along the way.

This version of the Strategy incorporates many of the outstanding issues that communities, people living with HIV, and civil society have raised during the consultation period. Now that the post-2015 global development framework is in place (in the form of the Sustainable Development Goals), the focus should now be on the means of implementation, including financing for the target to end AIDS by 2030.

We would like to highlight four key points where we call upon UNAIDS to show strong leadership:

  1. Intensify efforts to fast track resources, both domestic and international, to meet the global targets,
  2. Ensure a robust accountability framework within the budget and results accountability framework that is laser-focused on the activities for which UNAIDS is responsible, particularly in providing global and country level yardsticks for tracking efforts to strengthen human rights and civil society – two key pillars of this renewed strategy.
  3. Strengthen advocacy and technical support for community systems and action as a critical driver of resilient health systems,
  4. Continue to work to keep the response global and inclusive and ensure that no one is left behind.

Zero new infections and the 90-90-90 targets require a fresh look at patient-centred testing, care and treatment. It will also not be possible to get there without a road map to strengthen community structures that can mobilise and engage those being left behind. Let us share two examples:

1. A fast-tracked response is a powerful vision but will be difficult without a prevention framework that guides national programmes and helps them to optimise investments in effective combination prevention interventions. More reliable data on the status of the epidemics among key populations is critical. The scarcity of epidemiological, but also behavioural and operational research data on key populations in low- and middle-income countries is a major barrier to successful HIV combination prevention. The ‘know your epidemic’ approach should be a prerequisite step for any investment in rights based, combination prevention efforts, especially if we take into ‘real’ consideration fast tracking the response over the next five years.

2. UNAIDS has supported community responses and advocated for the scale up of community-based services from the beginning of the epidemic. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria has spearheaded the concept of community systems and created specific channels to scale up community responses. However, evidence shows that despite these efforts, the community response is at risk. UNAIDS and Stop AIDS Alliance recently co-published “Communities Deliver”, a report that evidences the impact of community action in service delivery, advocacy, research and financing and calls for a scale up in community responses, including predictable and sustained funding for communities. The new UNAIDS strategy makes the case for scaling up community responses; but this will need to come hand in hand with a clear framework and funding mechanisms that really help to embed the community response into national health budgets and plans. A framework is needed that links community and health systems and makes the case for resilient and sustainable systems for health. It must also guide donors and technical agencies to help them come up with an agenda to sustain and scale up community actions.

People living with HIV and civil society more broadly have played a key role in ensuring our perspectives are reflected in the updated UNAIDS strategy. We will continue to advocate for effective and inclusive means of implementation and look forward to working closely alongside member states, the UN, particularly the UNAIDS secretariat and its co-sponsors to move this agenda forward. Again, thank you for all the hard work, commitment and leadership in the process of updating the strategy."

27 October 2015