Keynote address to Thematic session of 49th UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board, 10 December 2021
Thank you moderator, and also for the important work your team and UNAIDS does to strengthen data in the HIV response. It’s an honor to be asked by civil society and communities to join this important discussion on Human Rights Day.
I’d like to take this moment to reflect on the big picture. The hard truth is that funding for HIV is diminishing, and we urgently need data to make hard decisions. Who lives, who dies, increasingly depends on data.
But health data is not neutral: it is shaped by power and inequalities.
The study assessed the experience of sex workers, men who have sex with men, people who use drugs and transgender people in Africa with consultations for the Global Fund, UNAIDS and PEPFAR. An online survey had 99 respondents from 25 African countries, and I spoke with key populations representatives in Cameroon, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Uganda, and Tanzania, as well as a focus group in Malawi. The report was cosponsored and co-authored by AMSHeR, the Africa Sex Workers Alliance, Gender DynamiX, and Transbantu Association Zambia.
42 percent of key populations who responded had been consulted on national HIV strategic plans, 33 percent on Global Fund funding requests, and 19 percent on PEPFAR operational plans
Many complained that consultation was cursory and tokenistic, and few had seen the final plans or budgets to verify whether their input was included
Participation was complex, time-consuming, and unfunded — it often involved taking time off from day jobs, or travel at the respondent’s own expense
Some described retaliation or threats from key actors in their countries if they criticized performance of existing programmes
Despite the challenges, most expressed determination to continue to engage, in order to press for meaningful change.
As we think about future development of mechanisms to manage funds for the Covid-19 response, what works and what does not, it’s important to hear and reflect on these voices. The report includes recommendations, which the report partners discussed in depth with the Global Fund, UNAIDS and PEPFAR at the time.
More broadly, perhaps we should think about a community HIV archive to save reports like these from vanishing…
In this first episode of Right On: Human Rights Activists Respond to COVID-19, we talk to three leading human rights experts: law professor Scott Burris (Temple University), Patrick Eba (UNAIDS country director, Central African Republic) and Yaqiu Wang (China researcher, Human Rights Watch) and ask them: What are the tradeoffs we should make between individual freedoms and the greater public good? What are tradeoffs we just cannot not accept? And what can we learn from over 30 years of fighting for human rights in the response to HIV and tuberculosis? Moderated by Meg Davis in Geneva.
A few weeks ago – it feels like longer, given the COVID-19 crisis – I sat in a studio at the UN in Geneva with BBC journalist Imogen Foulkes, Sarah Brooks (ISHR) and Daniel Warner for a great chat about China at the United Nations. You can hear the conversation here .
Foulkes asked the panel: After years of marginalization, China is exercising growing influence at the UN, increasing its UN spending and heading five UN agencies. But what does China’s commitment to multilateralism mean in practice? Continue reading →
Right before everything got cancelled due to the COVID19 outbreak, I joined a panel of experts on the Inside Geneva podcast to discuss China’s changing role at the UN. With the US taking a step back from multilateral engagement, China’s leader, Xi Jinping, has pledged that China will step forward – but what has happened in practice? We explored this in relation to health, human rights and other areas.
The picture is changing rapidly today, with the US fumbling to respond to a rapidly escalating coronavirus outbreak, and China offering aid and supplies to many countries. But here’s what we thought two weeks ago.