CategoriesBlog Run4TB

WORLD TB DAY – KENYAN EDITION

world tb day

WORLD TB DAY – KENYAN EDITION

Yes, We can end TB! 

This year’s World TB Day commemoration in Kenya brought together stakeholders at Kimorori grounds in Murang’a County to declare their interest and  commitment in the fight against TB. In attendance were representatives from the national government, including the Cabinet Secretary for Health Hon. Susan Nakhumicha  and Principal secretary for Public Health  and Professional Standards Hon. Mary Muthoni, County Government officials, Global Partners. Global Fund, USAID, WHO; CSOs, Community Health workers and communities were in attendance.

All  the speakers emphasised a multisectoral approach to tackling TB because it impacts all sectors of  Kenya’s economy, including the education sector. Moreover, there was a common view on the need to include innovation in diagnosis and treatment of TB. Despite notable progress, TB remains a persistent public health challenge in Kenya, with the country being among the 30 high-burden nations for TB.

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Stop TB Partnership Kenya National Coordinator, Evaline Kibuchi

 

Stop TB Partnership Kenya National Coordinator, Evaline Kibuchi applauded the government for its continued support of the fight and urged legislators to continue involving TB in societal conversations. She asked the president, through the Cabinet secretary, to prioritise the government’s fight against TB by increasing Kenya’s health budget, thus increasing resources for health and for TB in particular.

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Cabinet Secretary for Health, Hon. Susan N. Nakumicha

 

The Cabinet Secretary, Hon. Nakhumicha applauded Community Health Workers for their good job in fighting TB at the grassroots level through raising awareness and offering community support. She also appreciated the efforts of global partners in the fight against TB. “As a ministry, we’re shifting our healthcare investment focus from curative to promotive and preventive services. By prioritizing these services, we’ll intensify the fight against TB as we work closely with our collaborators to secure a healthier future for all.” CS Nakhumicha. 

The event was marked by a march to stand in solidarity with communities affected by TB, and honor lives that were lost to TB. There were several TB diagnostic stations that were testing for the infectious disease, as well as celebrating the progress made in prevention and treatment of TB. 

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Phillip Nyakwana, Chair Non State Actors Kenya (left),WACI Health’s Executive Director, Rosemary Mburu (centre), Ag. Director General MoH, Dr. Sultani Matendechero (right)

 

Indeed, we can end TB, everyone has a role to play towards ending TB. 

CategoriesAfNHI Blog

Adherence To Art Medication And Challenges Faced By Young People Living With HIV

On July 29, 2023, a gathering of young individuals living with HIV became a beacon of strength and support. This support group session was dedicated to addressing the vital topics of antiretroviral therapy (ART) adherence and the challenges faced by young people in accessing HIV services. It provided a safe haven for these resilient souls to exchange experiences, coping strategies, and tales of triumph over adversity. With 24 participants, including eight from the LGBTQIA community, the session was a testament to the power of community and shared resilience.

Session Highlights:

This support group session was an active dialogue, allowing participants to open their hearts and minds freely. Here are the key takeaways:

ART Experiences and Coping Mechanisms:

Participants emphasized the paramount importance of adhering to ART medication for maintaining their health. They shared their personal journeys, shedding light on the various coping mechanisms they’ve employed to navigate challenges such as medication side effects, stigma, and emotional well-being. The session became a platform for these young warriors to exchange strategies and provide mutual support, nurturing a sense of belonging and empowerment.

Challenges in Accessing Services:

The challenges in accessing HIV services emerged as a significant theme. Participants identified barriers such as limited access to healthcare facilities, lack of awareness about available services, and the persistent specter of discrimination and stigma. The LGBTQIA community members shared their unique experiences, unveiling additional layers of obstacles they face. The session encouraged participants to voice their concerns and collectively brainstorm potential solutions.

Success Stories and Achieving Low Detectable Levels:

The session was not just a platform for sharing challenges; it was also a stage for showcasing success stories. Participants narrated their journeys of ART adherence, culminating in the achievement of low detectable levels of HIV infection. These stories served as beacons of inspiration and motivation for others facing similar trials. The session underscored the pivotal role of support networks, healthcare provider relationships, and self-care practices in achieving positive health outcomes.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, this support group session on ART adherence and challenges in accessing HIV services was a powerful forum for young individuals to pool their wisdom and experiences. It illuminated the ongoing need for support, awareness, and advocacy to address the unique hurdles faced by young people living with HIV. By fostering a sense of community and empowerment, the session aimed to ignite a spirit of resilience, encouraging participants to maintain their ART adherence and strive for low detectable levels of HIV infection. In these voices, we find the strength to triumph over adversity, inspiring hope for a brighter future in the face of HIV.

Kelvin Njoroge

AfNHi Youth Cohort Mentee 2023

CategoriesAfNHI Blog

Empowering Adolescent Girls and Young Women in Uganda to Combat Workplace Harassment

Recent findings from a study conducted in Uganda reveal alarming statistics: one in three Adolescent Girls and Young Women (AGYW) have suffered physical or sexual abuse, while an even more distressing one in two have experienced sexual harassment. This pervasive violence against AGYW poses a grave concern that demands immediate attention. Such acts of violence not only inflict physical and emotional trauma but also lead to financial hardships, hindering AGYW’s ability to pursue education, employment, and a healthy life.

 

Addressing this pressing issue, ACTS101 Uganda partnered with UGANENT LAW to organize an empowering event titled “Empowerment to Power,” specifically targeting young women in the workplace. The primary objective of this engagement was to empower AGYW, enabling them to voice their concerns and advocate for measures against workplace violence and abuse. Additionally, it aimed to raise awareness regarding the pervasive issue of violence targeting AGYW in employment settings.

 

Understanding Body Autonomy and Gender-Based Violence (GBV):

Mrs. Bridget N. Jjuuko, Executive Director of ACTS101 Uganda, initiated the event with a crucial presentation highlighting the significance of body autonomy. Body autonomy emphasizes an individual’s right to make choices about their body without fear of violence or coercion. During the presentation, the six core types of gender-based violence (GBV) were discussed in detail:

  1. Physical Violence
  2. Verbal Violence
  3. Psychological Violence
  4. Harassment and Sexual Violence
  5. Socio-Economic Violence
  6. Domestic Violence

 

Sharing Personal Experiences:

Following Mrs. Jjuuko’s presentation, AGYW participants were encouraged to share their personal experiences of workplace violence. These stories unveiled the heart-wrenching reality of their daily struggles. For instance:

– One young woman recounted how her boss frequently made inappropriate comments about her appearance, creating an uncomfortable work environment.

– Another young woman revealed that her boss had demanded a kiss, and upon her refusal, unjustly terminated her employment.

– A third young woman, who identifies as transgender, disclosed being physically assaulted by a client.

 

Understanding Legal Framework and Rights:

The sharing of experiences led to a constructive discussion about the legal framework concerning sexual harassment. Ms. Shakira, a lawyer from UGANENT LAW, advised AGYW participants to carefully review their employment contracts and become aware of their rights. She emphasized the importance of maintaining a journal to document any incidents of harassment and encouraged participants to confide in trusted friends or family members about their experiences.

 

Charting the Path Forward:

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The engagement concluded with a session dedicated to charting a path forward. AGYW participants proposed several actionable steps to address workplace GBV effectively:

 

  1. Development of a one-page information sheet on GBV within every organization.
  2. Creation of a standard GBV manual tailored to AGYW, facilitating training and awareness.
  3. Drafting a petition to raise awareness about GBV.
  4. Collaboration among civil society organizations to collectively combat this pressing issue.

Conclusion:

The “Empowerment to Power” engagement served as a valuable platform for AGYW to share their workplace harassment experiences and gain insights into their rights. Although significant work remains in addressing this pervasive problem, this event marked a crucial step forward. By empowering AGYW to stand against workplace sexual harassment, we aim to build a more just and equitable society for all, recognizing that AGYW represent the future of Uganda.

Victoria Nalweyiso

AfNHi Youth Mentee 2023

CategoriesAfNHI Blog

Engage online toward the High-level Meeting on UHC – #UHCHLM

Here we are: the UN High-level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage (UN HLM on UHC) is only 2 weeks away! This is a major opportunity to reinvigorate progress toward #HealthForAll. And everyone can engage to raise their voice! Here are 3 ways you can mobilize online ⬇️ #UHCHLM Engagement

1️⃣Countdown to the UN High-Level Meeting on UHC – Online Campaign

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Ahead of the High-level meetings in New york,  join UHC advocates from all around the world for a final online campaign on #UHCHLM. From 11 to 20 September, the campaign will focus on a specific action area from the UHC Action Agenda, to call for concrete actions following the adoption of the  2023 Political Declaration on UHC.

To participate:

  • Download the calendar here
  • Engage via your social media channels – following  CSEM (@CSOs4UHC) and UHC2030 (@UHC2030) on x.com (former Twitter), and on LinkedIn (UHC2030)

Visit the UHC2030 website for more information.

2️⃣Participate in the online Chat on Leaving No One Behind

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On September 12, 3-3:30 pm CET / 9-9.30 am ET, UHC2030 and CSEM will coordinate a #UHCHLM chat on x.com (formerly known as Twitter) on leaving no one behind.

This online chat is an opportunity to mobilize the UHC movement and rally a diverse audience behind UHC.

We invite you to engage in this short chat and take the opportunity to share and elevate key messages, resources and best practices. Please find here more information, and the 5 questions that will be asked: https://csemonline.net/event/uhchlm-chat-about-leaving-no-one-behind/

3️⃣ Stay up to date on the latest information on #UHCHLM: 

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CategoriesAfNHI Blog

Empowering Youth Advocacy for Global Health

In the heart of vibrant Nairobi, a dynamic gathering of 30 young individuals came together in August 2023. These were the champions of tomorrow, belonging to the Adolescent Girls and Young Women (AGYW) cohort. Their mission: to mark World Youth Skills Day with a bang, celebrating the boundless potential of young minds and their pivotal role in shaping our global health future.

This gathering had a clear purpose, and its objectives set the stage for exciting engagement outcomes.

  • The participants were on a quest to make the world resonate with the advocacy efforts of the DAPI Ring, both on a national and global scale.
  • Foster Inclusivity:- They sought to create an inclusive dialogue, a movement that would resonate far and wide, powered by WithMeInMe.
  • Introducing the Choice Manifesto:- An introduction to the Choice Manifesto was on the agenda, igniting the spark of change.

Advocacy on the DAPI Ring: In the spotlight was the imperative of accurate information, dispelling myths, and the fight for free and accessible HIV prevention tools. Also highlighted was the progress of the CATALYST studies in Kenya and the progress of the activation sites to date.

 

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Skills and Empowerment: The power of advocacy skills and communication took center stage. Social media emerged as a mighty weapon for spreading awareness. Evidence-based advocacy was highlighted as a critical tool in modern day advocacy. The participants went ahead and brainstormed around various ways digital media advocacy can amplify the call for inclusion of the DAPI Ring on the HIV Prevention basket of choice.

LGBTQI Inclusivity: The discussions ripped through stigmas, championing equality. Discussions illuminated a critical imperative: dismantling stigmas and dispelling misconceptions surrounding LGBTQI communities. The spotlight was on promoting acceptance and nurturing inclusivity within HIV prevention programs. In this narrative of change, education and awareness emerged as potent catalysts for fostering equality. This collective insight resounded loudly, underscoring the WithMeInMe campaign as a vital platform for meaningful dialogue. It hammered home the urgency of inclusivity and the indispensable role of education in propelling effective change within the realm of HIV prevention efforts.

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Global Fund Writing Process:Ruth Jerop, AYAREP Executive Director and a community representative on the Kenya Coordinating Mechanism (KCM), graced us with an update on the Global Fund writing process. She stressed the critical need for the Dapivirine (DAPI) ring, citing past challenges faced by interventions like PEPFAR in effectively combating HIV. Jerop emphasized that the DAPI ring’s potential to empower individuals to take control of their bodies and sexual health has not been fully realized. Urgency looms, and addressing the roadblocks is crucial. She called for a thorough examination and rectification of these hindrances, ensuring that the Global Fund’s financial resources lead to a comprehensive, culturally sensitive implementation strategy.  As she concluded her address, Ruth appealed to the young audience to grasp the challenges faced by different demographics to enable the advocacy to be evidence-led. 

In the end, this electrifying gathering was a rallying cry for action. The Youth advocates pledged their dedication to HIV prevention, inclusivity, and the continued advocacy of the DAPI Ring. The Choice Manifesto launch scheduled for September 2023 lays a promising secure and effective discussions around the HIV Prevention Choice agenda regionally.

AfNHi Secretariat

CategoriesBlog Press Release

Empowering Safely: Safe Digital Advocacy for Girls and Young Women!

Gracious Lekgoathi, an AfNHi youth cohort member and HER Voice Fund Ambassador for South Africa used her digital advocacy skills to create an impact at the Women Deliver Conference 2023. As a panelist on the topic of “Online Community Building,” she emphasized the importance of educating and investing in mental health support for girls and young women in the digital space. Gracious stressed the need for both digital and traditional advocacy to create safe and inclusive online spaces.

Screenshot 2023 07 31 at 11.20.41 She also stressed the need for both digital and traditional advocacy in order to create safe and inclusive online spaces for girls and young women. She used the digital advocacy skills she learned as part of the AFNHi youth cohort during the Youth Leadership and Advocacy programme to share her insights on creating safe and inclusive online spaces for girls and young women.

The Women Deliver Conference is a global gathering of leaders from the worlds of government, business, philanthropy, and civil society to discuss the health, rights, and well-being of girls and women. The conference was held in Kigali, Rwanda, from 16 to 20 July, 2023.

Her own experiences as a social impact digital content creator has given her a unique perspective on the power of digital media. She has seen how it can be used to raise awareness of important issues, connect with others, and build community. However, she also recognizes the potential for digital media to be used for harm. That’s why she is so passionate about using her digital advocacy skills to promote safe online spaces for girls and young women.

“We must not take for granted that girls are aware of how violence can occur online,” Lekgoathi said. “We need to educate them on their digital rights and how violence can surface online.”Screenshot 2023 07 31 at 11.20.58

Gracious also emphasized the importance of storytelling in digital advocacy. She believes that personal stories can be a powerful way to connect with others and raise awareness of important issues. “As we hold our policymakers accountable, let’s take into account that maybe they too need some of this information broken down to simpler terms for them to comprehend,” Gracious said. “This can be done through the storytelling of personal experiences.”

The AfNHi Youth Leadership and advocacy program which she is currently undergoing has provided Gracious with the skills and resources she needs to take her digital advocacy to the next level. She has so far learned how to create engaging content, build relationships with key stakeholders, and measure the impact of her work. She also gained the confidence to speak out on issues that matter to her, even when it’s difficult.

“I want to inspire girls and young women to use digital advocacy to become the best vision of themselves,” she said. “We have the power to change the world, and I believe that digital media is a powerful tool that we can use to do that.”

About the HER Voice Fund

The HER Voice Fund is a global initiative empowering adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) to advocate for their health and rights. Managed by Y+ Global, a youth-led organization promoting sexual and reproductive health, the fund uses digital advocacy through social media, online platforms, and training AGYW on digital tools to raise awareness and connect them to share experiences.

Gracious participation in the Women Deliver Conference was an important opportunity to raise awareness of the issue of violence against girls and young women online. Her digital advocacy skills helped her to reach a wide audience and to share her message of hope and empowerment. She is an inspiration to girls and young women everywhere, and her work is making a difference in the lives of those who are most vulnerable.

 

CategoriesBlog

Pride Rising: LGBTQ+ Activists Shaping Change in Kenya

In recent years, LGBTQ+ activists in Kenya and Uganda have been at the forefront of the fight for equality, challenging discriminatory laws, attitudes, and policies. While Kenya has seen successful campaigns like #TheQueerRepublic, the struggle for LGBTQ+ rights extends beyond national borders. A parallel battle is taking place in neighboring Uganda, where activists are facing significant challenges in their quest for justice and acceptance.

In December 2021, the late Professor George Magoha, who was then the Education Cabinet Secretary-Kenya, issued a directive that not only deprived queer children of quality education but also fueled negative attitudes, stigma, and discrimination against them. He stated, “Right now there are contemporary cases of children who are homosexual and lesbian, they must go to day schools close to their homes. Your responsibility as headteachers should be for the greater majority, not a few individuals. Do not allow yourself to be intimidated by children.”

These remarks by the Education Cabinet Secretary were not only harmful but also sexualized children, denying them the opportunity to receive the best education in institutions of their choice. Moreover, these comments violated the safety and protection of children. By mandating that learners perceived to be LGBTQ+ attend day schools, their education was disrupted, and they were exposed to the risk of being disowned by their families or facing attacks from homophobic members of society.

In response to this injustice, Marylize Biubwa, a black Radical and Angry queer intersectional feminist and activist initiated a petition in collaboration with allout.org. The aim of the petition was to bring about change and ensure the safety of LGBTQ+ individuals, particularly children, in Kenya. It called upon allies from Kenya and around the world, media outlets, and individuals from various backgrounds to join #TheQueerRepublic in signing the petition. The objective was to guarantee a secure and inclusive environment for kids in Kenya. You can find the petition at the following link: https://action.allout.org/en/m/78d631fb/?utm_campaign=mgp-78d631fb&utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social_share- 

The petition gained momentum in January 2022, and Marylize Biubwa, along with other dedicated activists, organized a protest to voice their opposition to the Education Cabinet Secretary’s remarks and the government’s intention to ban queer children from enrolling in boarding schools. The protest was a powerful expression of unity and resilience, drawing attention to the unjust treatment of LGBT+ individuals in Kenya. It served as a powerful symbol of resistance and a call for change. https://fb.watch/lzCO1AEXZs/?mibextid=KZAQMH

The success of the protest was further solidified when the activists received official approval to conduct the demonstration. This acknowledgment not only validated their cause but also demonstrated the government’s recognition of the importance of protecting the rights of all individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

As a result of the campaign’s efforts, The Queer Republic, an organization dedicated to advocating for LGBTQ+ rights, became institutionalized, providing a platform for ongoing activism and support. This story serves as a testament to the power of collective action, determination, and the unwavering belief in equality and justice. By standing together and speaking out against discrimination, the ILGBTQ+ activists and organizations in Kenya have made significant strides towards a more inclusive and accepting society.

Despite the adversity they face, LGBTQ+ activists in Uganda continue to demonstrate extraordinary courage and resilience . They strive to create safe spaces, provide support networks, and advocate for their rights against all odds. Organizations like Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) and Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF) work tirelessly to protect and amplify the voices of the LGBTQ+ community, challenging discriminatory laws and providing vital assistance to those in need.

The fight for LGBTQ+ rights in Uganda requires international solidarity and support. The global community must join forces with local activists, amplifying their voices, and pressuring governments to uphold human rights and end discrimination. Continued awareness campaigns, petitions, and diplomatic efforts are vital to create lasting change and provide hope for LGBTQ+ individuals in Uganda and East Africa community.

Sources: 

https://www.mambaonline.com/2022/01/17/kenya-lgbtq-students-protest-over-boarding-school-ban/

https://twitter.com/search?q=Fahe_K%23TheQueerRepublic&t=maGcGoyUe73l1Z2DdhW2fw&s=09

CategoriesBlog Press Release

United Nations High-Level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage 2023

The 2023 United Nations High-Level Meeting (UN HLM) on universal health coverage (UHC)

provides countries and all stakeholders an opportunity to reinvigorate progress towards delivering health for all.  An action-oriented outcome focusing on building resilient and equitable health systems is key to provide the basis for implementation and accountability.

What is the Action Agenda from the UHC Movement?

The Action Agenda from the UHC movement is a set of action-oriented policy recommendations that country leaders should implement to strengthen resilient and equitable health systems, advance universal health coverage and health security, and deliver health for all by 2030. The UHC Action Agenda was developed by an inclusive, multi-stakeholder Task Force, which brings together twenty representatives from UHC2030 constituencies and beyond. It was informed by a public consultation which gathered 830 responses from over 100 countries. It was endorsed by the UHC2030 Steering Committee. Learn more.

Toward the High-level Meeting on UHC
The President of the UN General Assembly hosted an interactive multi-stakeholder hearing on UHC on May 9, 2023. The summary report from the hearing constitutes an official input for the drafting the Political Declaration on UHC. Intergovernmental negotiations on the Political Declaration on UHC started shortly after the hearing and should close by the end of July 2023.

 

For the Website

 

 

 

CategoriesBlog Press Release

HIV prevention advocates in Africa, Civil Society, and Communities condemn the signing of the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law by President Museveni: Calls for dialogue

HIV prevention advocates, communities, and representatives of diverse health networks strongly condemn President Museveni’s recent ascent to the anti-homosexuality bill, which poses a severe threat to the fundamental principles of human rights and equity in Uganda. The decision to approve this bill is deeply troubling and sends a distressing message to not only the LGBTIQ+ community but also to human rights defenders, civil society, activists, and individuals worldwide who advocate for equity and justice. This legislation directly violates the rights to privacy, freedom of expression, and freedom of association enshrined in international human rights conventions, by depriving such rights, this legislation limits access to HIV services and thereby undermines Uganda’s efforts and progress towards ending HIV. We denounce any legislation that discriminates against or marginalizes any segment of society, including the LGBTIQ+ community.

Every person deserves to live free from discrimination, persecution, and violence, and their rights must be respected and upheld by their governments, as such, we communities and civil society call upon;

  • We demand President Museveni and the Ugandan government immediately and unequivocally repeal the act, aligning with the obligations set forth in international human rights treaties that Uganda has willingly ratified.
  • African leaders and the international community to initiate a meaningful dialogue with the Ugandan Government, urging them to reconsider this unjust and discriminatory legislation.
  • We implore other African nations not to entertain legislations that undermine human rights and pose a grave risk to communities seeking vital health services, as such actions could hinder progress towards global goals.

About AfNHi:
Africa free of New HIV infections (AfNHi) is an African regional advocacy network dedicated to advancing advocacy, policy, regulatory, community engagement, and communications efforts that help accelerate biomedical HIV prevention research in Africa. The network began in 2012 as an extended exchange around the need to champion African-led advocacy in biomedical HIV prevention research among HIV Prevention advocates.

Signed by communities, HIV prevention advocates, young people, representatives of health networks, and Civil Society organizations, indicating their collective support.

  1.  Activists Education and Development Centre (AEDC)
  2.  Africa free of New HIV infections (AfNHi)
  3.  AIpas
  4. Advocacy for prevention of HIV and AIDS (APHA)
  5. AVAC
  6. Caribbean Centre for Human Rights
  7. Consolation East Africa (CEA)
  8. County government of kajiado
  9. Civil Society Platform on Health in Africa (CiSPHA)
  10. The Eastern Africa National Networks of AIDS and Health Service Organizations (EANNASO)
  11. Feminists in Kenya
  12. Global Fund Advocates Network – GFAN Africa
  13. Global Health Visions
  14. Global Justice Institute
  15.  Glebia org
  16. GNP+
  17. Hope for Future Generations
  18.  Impact Drivers
  19.  IPM
  20.  Key Affect Populations Alliance of Lesotho
  21. Key Population Consortium of Kenya
  22.  LEHA
  23.  Mirror Arts
  24.  Metropolitan Community Churches
  25.  Nadharia Kenya
  26. PEMA Kenya
  27.  Positive Young Women Voices
  28.  PYWV_LBQ WOMXN
  29. Reproductive Health Network Kenya -RHNK
  30.  Stephen Lewis Foundation
  31. Tanzania AIDS Forum
  32.  Tanzania Network of Women Living with HIV
  33.  The Botswana Network on Ethics Law HIVAIDS
  34.  The Queer Republic
  35. Touch A Child Initiative
  36.  Trans Alliance Anna Foundation Uganda
  37.  Uganda Network of AIDS Service Organizations (UNASO)
  38. Vijana pamoja
  39. WACI Health
  40.  Wits RHI, Johannesburg, South Africa
  41.  Y+ Global
  42.  YEM Kenya
  43. Youth Advisory Council
  44.  Youth Spaces Africa
  45.  ZOOLOOh International

 

CategoriesAfNHI Blog

COVID 19 AND LACK OF FUNDING NEGATING GAINS HIV PROGRESS

Stakeholders have warned that COVID 19 disruptions are likely to set back efforts made in curbing HIV infections back to ten years or more. According to UNAIDS’ new report released in July 2020, while securing antiretroviral therapy has been steadily improving, the progress is inequitable. In its report, Seizing the moment, the World Bank warns that if we don’t act, even the gains made will be lost. To reach the Millions still left behind, nations must double down and work with more urgency.

Unequal progress

Prevention of new HIV infections in Africa is far behind the rest of the world. Nearly two million people were newly infected with the virus, more than three times the global target. Seizing the moment report shows unequal progress, leaving behind vulnerable people and populations. For example, infected key populations such as gay men and their partners, men who have sex with men, sex workers, drug users and people in prison, accounted for 62 per cent of these new HIV infections. Women and girls from marginalised communities face barriers to accessing reproductive health services, especially contraception and HIV services. Those living with HIV/AIDS face stigma. A total of 59 per cent of all new HIV infections in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2019 were among women and girls, with 4500 girls and young women between 15 and 24 years old becoming infected every week. Thus, a growing number of young women are getting HIV infection, despite only making up 10 per cent of the population in sub-Saharan Africa.

Exclusion, stigma and discrimination

Social inequity and exclusion, stigma and discrimination have proven to be significant obstacles in curbing the new HIV infections. At least 82 countries criminalise HIV transmission, exposure, or non-disclosure, 103 criminalise sex work, and 108 criminalise the use, possession, or consumption of HIV related drugs.

Progress in targets

There is, however, a significant reduction in HIV transmission levels where comprehensive HIV services are provided. In addition, combining proactive medical practices with social and economic support for young women in Eswatini, Lesotho, and South Africa has narrowed inequality gaps and driven down the incidence of new HIV infections. Fourteen countries have achieved the 90–90–90 HIV treatment targets (90% of people living with HIV know their HIV status, of whom 90% are on antiretroviral treatment and of whom 90% are virally suppressed), including Eswatini, which has one of the highest HIV prevalence rates in the world, at 27% in 2019, and which has now surpassed the targets to achieve 95–95–95. The expansion of antiretroviral therapy has saved countless lives.

However, in 2019, 690 000 people died of AIDS-related illnesses in 2019, and 12.6 million of the 38 million people living with HIV did not receive life-saving treatment. Although progress has been made, it is masking the lack of progress and challenges that continue to persist, threatening the progress made during the past decade, with tragic consequences for people’s lives, economies, and health security. Again, Sub-Saharan Africa is most affected.

A case for biomedical research

Reducing new HIV infections need to be a deliberate act in Africa. It is imperative that the locally tailored, evidence- based, and community-owned programs be tailored to sustainably reduce new HIV infections.

In the just-concluded 5th  Biomedical HIV Prevention Forum (BHPF) hosted virtually in South Africa which focused on Financing of HIV Prevention Research in Africa, findings revealed that most countries did not have funding for biomedical research, and where research happened, it was mostly donor-driven.

To achieve Africa free of New HIV infections (AfNHi)’s vision of ending new HIV infections in Africa, the BHPF aims at mobilising scientific knowledge and building bridges between science and policy. In addition to mapping potential for collaborative national and regional activities within the AfNHi network, the forum looks to strengthen connections between policy and research through information exchange with HIV prevention advocates.

Reporting on the state of funding biomedical research in Africa, Dr Caleb Mulongo, in his research findings based on four countries; Kenya, Rwanda, Eswatini and Malawi noted that none of the four countries met the recommended allocation of two per cent of a country’s domestic budget to biomedical research.

While the Abuja Declaration targets that 15 per cent of the national budget be allocated to the health docket, none of the four studied countries (Kenya, Rwanda Eswatini and Malawi) met the target. The highest was Malawi with 11.5 per cent, with Kenya reporting the lowest allocation at less than seven per cent. Rwanda allocated about eight per cent while Eswatini allocated about nine per cent of their national budget to health.

When it comes to research allocation, Malawi set aside 1.06 per cent, which was the highest allocation from the studied countries. Eswatini had the least allocation, at 0.3 per cent.  Kenya allocated 0.79 per cent while Rwanda 0.27 per cent. It is evident low allocation in the health sector which is not adequate to support quality and universal coverage of health means there is very little if any funding to allocate to biomedical research.

More than underfunding

The mini-BHPF conferences held in Rwanda, Zimbabwe and Cote d’Ivoire, presented during the main BHPF forum had similar findings, that their respective countries had not prioritized biomedical research for preventing new HIV infections. More challenges beyond funding were nevertheless noted. There was a lack of expertise in writing proposals, those in charge do not know how to bind for funds to support their activities and where research was conducted, it was noted that because it was donor-driven, it did not particularly prioritise local issues, but rather ran with the donors’ agenda.

Own the process

A challenge has been thrown to African governments to invest more in biomedical research for HIV prevention funding, as well as invest in making sure systems are in place for translating findings into actions. A case of Malawi was noted, whose National Research Council of Malawi (NRCM) is domiciled in the Office of the President. This positioning is thought to be responsible for the higher allocations in the Health docket, hence elevating research as a national priority.

Other stakeholders including advocates for change, Civil Society and communities, Researchers and Front-line providers were called upon to keep the momentum for biomedical research HIV prevention funding, by pushing for better allocations of funds, elevating the discussion to the national level where policymakers sit and as well as information sharing across the countries.

 

 

 

 

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