Civil Society calls for Meaningful Involvement of Francophone Countries in HIV Response

BORDEAUX –More than one thousand activists, doctors, institutional players and other HIV/AIDS francophone stakeholders gathered in Bordeaux, France, from 4 to 7 April at the International Francophone Conference on HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis (AFRAVIH), including Morgane Ahmar, DCNGO Delegation Member from Morocco. The AFRAVIH conference gives visibility to the fight against HIV in the francophone world.

One of the main issues highlighted by activists at the conference was the alarming state of the HIV epidemic in francophone Africa, where three out of four people still do not access antiretroviral therapy and one out of four HIV-related deaths in the world occur. Among the various factors behind this situation, the slow implementation of some World Health Organization-recommended strategies such as task-shifting, despite important health professionals’ shortages in West and Central Africa and broad consensus on the efficacy of community-based approaches to favor proximity with key populations and people living with HIV.

In a presentation by Morgane Ahmar, Member of the Developing Country NGO Delegation, on the role and impact of the Global Fund on human rights, Ms Ahmar highlighted the need for international players to increase human rights interventions funding as central to ending the HIV epidemic. The crucial role played by key populations’ representatives in Country Coordinating Mechanisms (CCMs) was also outlined, particularly in contexts where key populations are criminalized and CCMs are the sole platform for dialogue between key populations and institutional players. Ms Ahmar emphasised that steps should be taken to ensure the effectiveness of key populations’ voices, i by increasing their technical expertise and advocacy skills. The question of the departure of the Global Fund in middle-income countries raises crucial questions for the continuity of these forums for key populations.

At the conference, civil society members gathered to discuss more broadly on the involvement of francophone actors in Global Fund issues. Francophone civil society is advocating for increased involvement of French-speaking actors in the global HIV/AIDS arena, as English is often a major barrier to access information and participate meaningfully. Activists gathered to discuss the need to improve mechanisms of consultation with francophone civil society regarding the Global Fund, in order to ensure strategic information sharing both from field community actors to Global Fund governance. The creation of a francophone branch of Global Fund Advocates Network (GFAN) was discussed and will be followed-up.

Activists seized the conference to launch a campaign on “demedicalization” with the goal to evidence the urgency of the situation and promote the role of community actors in every step of the care continuum. A few doctors took the stage at the opening ceremony to demand support from other doctors as well as from institutional players and donors, including the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria in order to make implementation of task-shifting strategies a reality. Lack of funding to implement these strategies to scale-up the HIV response was the greatest concern expressed by civil society at the conference.

By: Morgane Ahmar

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