People are less likely to seek out the goods, services and health care they need if sex becomes the price of entry.
If we are going to end HIV, tuberculosis (TB) and malaria as epidemics, it is essential that the programs the Global Fund supports deliver services in as safe a manner as possible and protect people from sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment (SEAH). Protection from SEAH, or PSEAH, is a critical element of achieving our mission.
The root causes of SEAH stem from an imbalance and abuse of power, which can create an environment where those in positions of power feel entitled to exploit, abuse, or harass those with less power, such as when providing services to beneficiaries of Global Fund-supported programs. The individuals providing these services inherently hold power due to their access to medication and other necessary services, while beneficiaries in need of these services are in a vulnerable and dependent position that can be exploited for sex acts.
Broader societal power imbalances can also contribute to SEAH. For example, social and cultural norms that perpetuate gender-based power imbalances and promote harmful ideals of gender expression can create a culture in which SEAH is normalized or excused. Although SEAH is widely perceived to be a “women’s issue,” it is crucial to understand that men and boys can also be victims of SEAH, regardless of their sexual orientation, and they may face additional barriers to reporting.
Addressing SEAH is vital to ensure that beneficiaries can access Global Fund-supported programs and services in a safe and inclusive environment, free from the threat of sexual exploitation, abuse, and harassment. Tackling SEAH effectively involves a combination of prevention, readiness and response strategies that are tailored to the unique needs of individuals and communities. Incorporating these strategies into our existing processes means adapting Global Fund policies, advocacy and awareness.