(New York, NY) At the United Nations High-Level Meeting on Ending AIDS this week, pledges to end AIDS by 2030 were undermined by weakened and ideologically driven language about HIV among men who have sex with men, transgender persons, sex workers, and people who inject drugs (key populations) in the Political Declaration. While a wide variety of countries made statements in support of key populations, civil society activists called on governments to move past rhetoric.
We applaud the announcement Thursday by Ambassador-at-Large Deborah Birx that the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) will launch a new $100 million Key Populations Investment Fund. The fund will support multi-year and comprehensive key population-led community-based approaches to monitor and facilitate engagement in service implementation, evidence gathering, and advocacy.
“Too many leaders say they support the end of AIDS and claim to stand with the people facing the life-threatening effects of bigotry and discrimination on full display during this week’s negotiations. But for many governments these are just words—they fail to take action where it counts. We are therefore heartened to see the U.S. government pledging funding to directly confront the human rights violations that keep quality, evidence based prevention and treatment services from key populations around the world,” said Asia Russell, Executive Director of the Health Global Access Project.
“The Ambassador’s announcement was a welcome departure from this week’s displays of weak leadership at the United Nations. Organizations led by gay men and other men who have sex with men, sex workers, transgender people and people who inject drugs are best positioned to address their communities’ concerns, but they are shamefully under-resourced to do the work needed,” said the Executive Director of the Global Forum on MSM & HIV (MSMGF), Dr. George Ayala.
Health GAP and MSMGF will hold PEPFAR accountable to ensure this fund is truly a departure from “business as usual” by recognizing the expertise of key population communities through direct and multi-year funding. Business as usual takes trickle down approaches, directing big funding to big institutions often with small yield. Funding rarely reaches communities that need it. We must seriously support key population-led community organizations and activists to systematically monitor and implement HIV prevention, care and treatment services. This includes advocacy for eliminating barriers to service access. This also includes human rights violations and violence, which drive persistent HIV disparities among gay men and other men who have sex with men, sex workers, transgender people, and people who inject drugs.