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Africa News of Wednesday, 3 August 2022

Source: GNA

People contracting HIV in many African countries due to inequity

Mr Ralf Jurgens, Senior Coordinator in charge of Human Rights at the Global Fund Mr Ralf Jurgens, Senior Coordinator in charge of Human Rights at the Global Fund

Mr Ralf Jurgens, Senior Coordinator in charge of Human Rights at the Global Fund, says a lot of people contracting HIV in many African countries is due to inequity.

The people mainly infected with HIV usually belong to the key populations including adolescent girls and young women, sex workers, prisoners among others.

He therefore called for a sustained effort in HIV programmes and campaigns to ensure equity, saying, “We cannot afford to slow down the campaign”.

Mr Jurgens addressed the alumni of the Breaking Down Barriers initiative to update them on the 24th International AIDS Conference.

The Global Fund’s Breaking Down Barriers initiative, is a groundbreaking programme launched in 2017 to provide intensive financial and technical support to 20 countries to address stigma and discrimination, criminalization and other human rights-related obstacles that continue to threaten progress against HIV, tuberculosis (TB), and malaria.

The 20 countries involved in the Breaking Down Barriers initiative are Ghana, Benin, Botswana, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire and Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The rest are, Honduras, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Mozambique, Nepal, the Philippines, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tunisia, Uganda and United Kingdom.

Mr Jurgens said there had been some setbacks in the HIV Campaign because of COVID-19, explaining that during the peak of COVID -19 era, a lot of people were not testing for HIV.

He however expressed optimism that with programmes such as the Breaking Down Barriers Initiative, people are working hard to improve policies and programmes that will have a positive impact in the lives of key populations.

A statement issued by the Global Fund, ahead of the International AIDS conference, said the Breaking Down Barriers has also enabled a significant expansion of programs to increase access to justice and to mobilize around changing harmful laws and policies. This aligns with the Global Fund’s new Strategy, which commits us to leverage our voice and influence to challenge laws and policies that impede successful responses to HIV, TB and malaria.

Mr Peter Sands Executive Director, the Global Fund, said the Global Fund’s Breaking Down Barriers initiative is a groundbreaking effort to confront these injustices.

“It translates into action the Global Fund’s commitment to scale up comprehensive programs to remove human rights and gender-related barriers. Through Breaking Down Barriers, we have provided catalytic matching funds and technical support to drive development and implementation of country-owned national programs to address the injustices that continue to threaten progress against HIV, TB, and malaria.”

Mr Sands said it is all about putting into the hands of people affected by HIV, TB and malaria the knowledge and the skills to understand, demand and secure their health-related human rights.

It is about enabling health care providers, police, prison officials, judges, and parliamentarians to provide supportive and effective services to all those most vulnerable to disease.

“We must also confront the injustices that make some people especially vulnerable to the disease and unable to access the health services they need. The same is true for TB, malaria, and other diseases, including COVID-19,” Mr Sands said.

A midterm assessments conducted between 2019 and end 2021, reveal all countries involved in the Breaking Down Barriers initiative saw progress in removing human rights‐related barriers to HIV services.

The midterm assessments showed that there is much work to be done to raise awareness of human rights- and gender-related barriers to malaria services. Nonetheless, there is progress.

There are efforts in national malaria plans and programs to ensure women are empowered to confront barriers to their participation in prevention and treatment efforts, Mr Sands noted.

Global Fund investments in programs to reduce human rights-related barriers have increased more than 10-fold – from slightly over US$10 million to now over US$130 million. Never has there been this much funding to support the implementation of comprehensive programs to remove human rights-related barriers to health services.

Mr Sands said The Global Fund, in line with their new Strategy, is committed to expanding and intensifying our support of interventions to address human rights and gender-related barriers to health services.

This is critical to defeating HIV, TB and malaria, to building truly inclusive systems for health that leave no one behind, and to enabling everyone, everywhere to realizing their right to health and wellbeing.

The Global Fund is a worldwide partnership to defeat HIV, TB and malaria and ensure a healthier, safer, more equitable future for all.

The Fund raise and invest more than US$4 billion a year to fight the deadliest infectious diseases, challenge the injustice which fuels them and strengthen health systems in more than 100 of the hardest hit countries.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, The Global Fund have invested an additional US$4.3 billion to fight the new pandemic and reinforce systems for health.

Since 2002, the Global Fund partnership has saved 44 million lives, Mr Sands said.

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