XV International AIDS Conference Session on Donor Cooperation Marked by Protest, Calls for Additional Resources
Collaboration among governments, communities and donors is an integral part of an effective response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, according to speakers and members of the audience at a session on Monday at the XV International AIDS Conference in Bangkok, Thailand. The session, titled "Funding the response to HIV/AIDS: Why are donors not working together?" included speakers from the World Bank, the Malawi and United States governments, Gay Men's Health Crisis and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
Speaking to an overflow audience, Mark Dybul, deputy chief of the President's Emergency Plan to Fund AIDS Relief, said that PEPFAR is the single largest response to any single disease ever undertaken by a government. Dybul, who spoke on behalf of Ambassador Randall Tobias, head of the State Department's Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator, said that the U.S. global AIDS initiative "is on the move and moving quickly," adding that the program has ordered antiretroviral drugs in 14 of the 15 countries covered under PEPFAR. Dybul said that PEPFAR is working with and supporting many other organizations and initiatives to fight AIDS worldwide, including the World Health Organization's 3 by 5 Initiative, UNAIDS and the Global Fund.
However, Dybul's speech was marked by silent protest, with some audience members holding up signs reading, "Stop Killing the Global Fund" and "Lack of Absorptive Capacity=Racism." Dybul concluded, "Disagreement is not only inevitable but necessary and healthy. If it is respectful and understanding, if passion is channeled well, we can find agreement and work together." When he finished speaking, some people in the audience booed and chanted, "Shame, shame."
Greg Gonsalves, director of treatment advocacy at Gay Men's Health Crisis, called on the AIDS advocacy and care community to document their programs in order to catalog successes and challenges, so that donors might be more willing to work directly with such organizations. Gonsalves urged the Global Fund to bring communities into its discussions and stop talking only with ministries of health. He added that the Global Fund's use of Country Coordinating Mechanisms -- which oversee each country's applications to the fund -- was "in shambles." However, Dr. As Sy, director of operational partnerships at the Global Fund, who spoke on behalf of Global Fund Executive Director Richard Feachem, said that the fund has never been involved in the design of project proposals. Sy added that CCMs and Global Fund technical partners deserve "merit" for designing and approving programs to recommend to the fund (Alyson Browett, Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/12).
A webcast of the complete session is available online from kaisernetwork.org.