Hristijan Jankuloski, Delegation Member and Macedonia native, led the customary candle-lighting ceremony during the opening ceremony of the 39th Board Meeting. In his presentation, Hristijan reflected on the lives lost to the three diseases and the work that must be done to amplify the voices of those affected by and playing their part in the response.
The full text of this presentation is below.
May 9, SKOPJE – I light this candle in memory of two people who inject drugs who died just a few weeks ago of drug overdose. An Opioid Substitution Therapy clinic was closed, and while advocates in our constituency lobbied the health ministry to reopen it, months went by without any action. As a result, two people who lacked methadone for many months, people known to our constituency, died of overdose.
We see this trend in all regions. In cases where countries went into transition too quickly, or in countries that have never been eligible for Global Fund support at all and that are now facing humanitarian catastrophes, we see people lost or displaced. In more and more countries, punitive laws harm key populations, and closing civic space means they can’t form NGOs to make their voices heard.
Our constituency represents domestic civil society on the front lines of the epidemics. We drive people to surgeries, to hospitals, and we are on the phones at all hours of day and night, advocating with doctors, nurses and law enforcement. We have seen the real difference the Global Fund can make. Still, every day we lose people to overdose, and to the three diseases. Eastern Europe and Central Asia is the only region in the world where the HIV epidemic is growing. TB remains a huge issue, XDR-TB is on the rise, and so is drug resistance.
When their voices are silenced, the duty falls to all of us to speak for them. We light this candle to remember our fallen colleagues.
Please stand, and join me in a moment of silence.