25 July 2018
AMSTERDAM – At the International AIDS Conference, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria joined efforts to accelerate the end of the HIV epidemic, linking civil society, scientific experts and policymakers from all over the world on the conference theme of breaking barriers and building bridges.
With broad agreement that global health efforts are not on track to end the epidemic by 2030, partners called for bold political leadership to mobilize more funding, overcome human rights barriers and gender inequalities, and build stronger health systems.
The Global Fund participated in the launch of the MenStar Coalition, which seeks to engage men in new and innovative ways to break the cycle of HIV transmission. The launch was announced on stage at the conference Tuesday by Sir Elton John, Ndaba Mandela and Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex.
The coalition aims to expand diagnosis and treatment of HIV infection in men, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, leveraging over US$1.2 billion from founding partners: the Elton John AIDS Foundation, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the Global Fund, Unitaid, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF), Johnson & Johnson (J&J), and Gilead Sciences.
Recent data from many high-burden countries show that men, particularly those aged 24-35, access HIV testing and treatment at low rates, endangering their own health and also expanding the spread of HIV among adolescent girls and young women.
In numerous sessions at the conference, partners discussed the need for additional funding, the importance of sharpening focus on HIV efforts, and the importance of advancing work toward establishing universal health coverage.
“There’s a false dichotomy between financing to end the HIV epidemic and financing to build universal health coverage,” said Peter Sands, Executive Director of the Global Fund. “You can do both. The right thing is to do both. The simple fact is that we are not going to end the HIV epidemic without placing the HIV response firmly within a resilient universal health care system. And we won’t achieve UHC if we don’t tackle HIV.”
Sands also stressed the importance of working with civil society to reach key populations, echoing the findings of a new report by UNAIDS, “Miles to go: closing gaps, breaking barriers, righting injustices” that shows that 47 percent of new HIV infections globally are among key populations.
“Quite apart from the human rights imperative, it is bad economics and bad epidemiology to ignore key populations,” said Sands. “We absolutely need to work in partnership.”