US launch event: The Critical Role of Communities in ending AIDS

On February 24 2016, STOPAIDSNOW! /Aids Fonds, the Alliance and UNAIDS organized a high level panel discussion in Washington DC to profile the critical importance of the community-led response in ending AIDS.

In front of an audience consisting of senior level U.S. Government representatives, U.S. implementing partners, including MsH, FHI360, JSI and EGPAF. Other participants included senior staff from Embassies, including the Netherlands, Zambia, and Namibia, and DC based UN agency staff and civil society organizations. 

A range of speakers included Ambassador Debbi Birx, Global U.S. AIDS Coordinator, Dr. Maria Angela Simao, UNAIDS and Juan Jacobo Hernandez-Chavez, Director of Alliance Linking Organisation in Mexico, Colectivo Sol.

Dr. Simao stated that after more than 30 years of responding to AIDS, we have once again come to the realization that communities deliver results, they can provide greater impact and better health outcomes than public health systems alone.

Ambassador Birx made a very clear statement that we have failed MSM, sex workers, drug injecting communities as well as young women. We need to change our approach. She said we all know how valuable civil society and communities are for an effective response, yet we are not investing in them. The U.S. Government recognizes that they still have a lot of work to do in meaningfully engaging with and investing in communities. They recently launched the DREAMS Innovation Challenge Fund that complements the current DREAMS Initiative to ensure support to local civil society organizations and communities. In addition, Ambassador Birx mentioned the U.S. Government support to the Robert Carr Network Fund as an important means to invest in regional civil society networks. 

Juan Jacobo Hernandez talked about the challenges middle income countries such as Mexico face when donors pull out and communities working with marginalized and stigmatized populations are left on their own. 

Louise van Deth, STOP AIDS NOW! in her closing remarks explained that investing in communities should not be seen as an intervention but as an approach that requires long-term partnership building and sustained funding, critical to ending AIDS.