Communities affected by HIV, tuberculosis (TB) and malaria must be involved at all levels of the response to these diseases, according to grassroots and civil society groups in Anglophone Africa.
Groups from 15 countries across east and southern Africa met to discuss how they can work together and improve communications at an event in January in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The event, which aimed to enhance the knowledge of civil society and community groups on the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria and how to access technical assistance, was hosted by the Eastern Africa National Networks of AIDS Service Organizations (EANNASO).
At the meeting, delegates called for more active engagement of communities in decision-making forums and the need to address policy gaps which hinder the success of community interventions. To support this, EANNASO has produced a helpful new video toolkit on how to influence decision-making processes in health.
Nana Gleeson, from Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA), shared an experience of accessing technical assistance from the International HIV/AIDS Alliance. With this support BONELA has been appointed a sub-recipient of Global Fund funding. This is a major boost as securing funding can be a huge challenge for community organisations.
"BONELA looks forward to this journey because it sees the appointment as a truly exciting time and great opportunity to see first-hand how infusing human rights into programming can make a genuine difference for key populations and other affected communities," said Gleeson.
Gleeson also said she hopes the Global Fund will see how it can extend its current programmes and enable civil society groups to play a more meaningful role. She said the critical message to donors, such as the US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Global Fund, is that they should fund the people who have the least access to health care and to services in general.
Gleeson believes that although Botswana is considered a middle income country, which might prevent them from being eligible in the eyes of some donors, there is need for donors to directly fund the community groups. She said that in Botswana, community organisations and groups for people most at risk of HIV continue to be represented as apa, meaning little income. This creates barriers to funding.
"People should recognise that it does not mean that because the country has money, the funds are necessarily reaching the people that need it the most," says Gleeson.
Nicholous Nwagawa, aged 23, programme manager for Uganda Network of Young People Living with HIV, is very thankful for the sponsorship of the Link Up family. This allowed him to attend the first regional Global Fund meeting for communication and coordination.
According to him, it is paramount that people appreciate the role that young people play and ensure that they are given a platform to speak about issues affecting their health.
"Evidently, we are now realising the need to invest in young people to end the epidemic. During the meeting a number of issues were discussed. These include the role of the Global Fund and how such a regional platform can give more technical support to young people so that they are able to understand how they can get involved and make the Global Fund understand and attend to their needs," says Nwagawa.
He said he hopes and believes that the outcomes of the regional meetings will enhance positive health outcomes of young people who are living with HIV or affected by malaria and TB in Uganda.
"The platform augments the voice of the young people because there is nothing for the youth without the youth themselves," he said.
The meeting recommended that communities need support in selecting the most able representatives for Country Coordinating Mechanism engagement with the Global Fund and when applying for technical assistance. These representatives must be strong on effective political advocacy and lobbying, to be able to push through their agenda and make sure that the Global Fund works for affected communities.