Delegates drawn from member countries of the African Constituency Bureau were urged to prudently use Global Fund to get back on track in tackling inequities, gender-based violence and scaling up evidence based impactful programmes

Kenya is hosting delegates drawn from member countries of the African Constituency Bureau for a consultative meeting on resource mobilization and implementation of Global Fund and UNAIDS strategies. The African Constituency Bureau (The ACB) also known as the Bureau, brings together the two African Constituencies represented at the Global Fund to fight HIV and AIDS, Tuberculosis (TB) and Malaria. The two constituencies i.e., Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) and West and Central Africa (WCA) represent 47 African Countries that are recipients of Global Fund support for HIV, TB, and Malaria control. The Bureau facilitates collaboration across the two constituencies and ensures that Africa’s voice is enhanced to influence Global Health policy decisions.

Missed targets

The caucus seeks to review progress made in the fight against HIV and AIDS in the region and fast track implementation of global strategies to end AIDS by 2030. The meeting, besides seeking to determine best ways to effectively and impactfully utilize Global Fund resources to end HIV and AIDS, also provides a platform for consensus building on Africa’s position ahead of the Global Fund’s 7th replenishment meeting in October 2022.

The timely meeting which brings together delegates from Sub-Saharan Africa – the world’s most HIV and AIDS burdened regions – takes place against a backdrop of missed targets and slowed response occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic. The region is reeling from the effects of Covid-19 which according to experts worsened the fragile health systems and increased inequalities that exposed vulnerable groups, including young women and adolescent girls. According to the Global Fund, HIV testing in Africa declined by 40 per cent resulting in fewer people initiated into treatment. The pandemic further exacerbated inequities and diverted critical resources at country level, stretching fragile health systems and thereby slowing access to critical HIV prevention and treatment services. As a result, vulnerable people were put at elevated risk.

Let’s get back on track

In a statement delivered on behalf of Kenya’s Principal Secretary Ministry of Health Susan Mochache during the official opening of the meeting, Kenya’s National AIDS Control Council Chief Executive Officer Dr. Ruth Laibon-Masha, noted that despite progress made in the fight against HIV and AIDS, more efforts are required to stay the course of meeting global timelines by 2030.

“Despite the progress over decades, HIV infections are not falling fast enough with 1.5 million new infections in 2020: over 65 per cent of these among key populations and disproportionate burden on adolescent girls and young women (AGYW). Further, there have been 680,000 AIDS related deaths and 10.2 million HIV infected persons still require to be put on life saving treatment,” she said.

While lauding the African countries for their commitment in the replenishment process, she urged stakeholders to prudently use Global Fund to get back on track in tackling inequities, gender-based violence and scaling up evidence based impactful programmes in the HIV response in Africa. “The Presidents of Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, Senegal, and South Africa took the bold step and kicked us off with the right focus and tone on the replenishment in February this year. We will therefore need to build on this political will and momentum to advocate for support in the quest for the USD 18 billion that is required to get back on track to end AIDS, TB, and Malaria by saving 20 million lives, cut HIV, TB and Malaria deaths by 65 per cent and strengthen health systems to reinforce pandemic preparedness for the period 2023-2025,” noted Dr. Masha.

Bold targets

Anne Githuku-Shongwe, East and South Africa Regional Director, UNAIDS while lauding stakeholders in the region for the significant strides, however said that 310,000 people died of AIDS related complications in 2020 and an estimated 670,000 people acquired HIV in the same period. Similarly, adolescent girls and young women (15-24 years) accounted for 27 per cent of all new infections in Eastern and Southern Africa while (10-19 years), girls accounted for 85 per cent of all new infections against a background of entrenched gender inequalities and prevalent gender-based violence.

She thus urged delegates to fast-track implementation of Global AIDS Strategy 2021-2026 to address inequalities preventing progress towards ending AIDS by 2030. “The new Global AIDS Strategy 2021 – 2026 – End Inequalities. End AIDS – is a bold new approach to use an inequalities lens to close the gaps that are preventing progress towards ending AIDS. The Strategy sets out evidence-based priority actions and bold targets to get every country and every community on-track to end AIDS as a public health by 2030. Given the burden of HIV, TB and malaria in Africa, the continent will need to proactively prepare to implement both strategies,” she said.

About Global Fund

Africa receives about 70 per cent of resources from the Global Fund to fight HIV and AIDS. It therefore remains a critical partner in getting the progress on HIV and AIDS back on track. Under the stewardship of African Constituency Bureau, the continent was instrumental in shaping Global Fund strategy. The meeting resolutions and outcomes shall thus be key in informing decisions during Global Fund 7th replenishment caucus.