Meet Yevhen, a successful business owner in the Ukraine who used to be dependent on intravenous drugs. Because of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, he is alive and thriving.
Yevhen’s story reminds us that continued global financial support to evidence-based health services is critical for treating, preventing and—one day—ending AIDS for good. Opiate substitution therapy is proven to reduce the risk of HIV by ending dependence on injected drugs. Made available in Ukraine by the Global Fund, substitution therapy has allowed Yevhen to live a happier and healthier life, and has greatly reduced his chances of contracting and spreading HIV.
The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has played a profound role in meeting the needs of people who use drugs and other criminalized and marginalized populations around the world. It remains the funding mechanism with the greatest potential both to take HIV, tuberculosis and malaria programs to scale, and to address the discrimination, violence, criminalization, overincarceration, and other human rights violations that fuel these epidemics in the first place. Without the Global Fund, Yevhen and countless others would still be treated as criminals and fugitives in their own countries, rather than as people endowed with dignity and rights.
In recent weeks, fundamental changes have taken place at the Fund. The Board approved a new funding model and appointed a new Executive Director, Dr. Mark Dybul. Elements of the new funding model include categorizing recipient countries according to need and ability to pay, investing in national strategies rather than discrete proposals, evaluating strategies through a process of “dialogue” with the Global Fund Secretariat, and streamlining the disbursement of grants.
As the impact of these changes plays out over the coming months and years, all players must come together to make sure that new developments capitalize on the Global Fund’s legacy to date: A truly global mechanism that reaches even the most marginalized individuals, and that champions the involvement of civil society. Rich countries must ensure the Fund has sufficient resources to reach all communities affected by the three diseases—not just those in selected countries. The Fund itself must create real incentives for countries to invest in the best science and in human rights programs that create an enabling environment for that science to work. Civil society must play a leading role both in delivering programs and in holding the Fund accountable to its ideals of participation, partnership, and human rights.
The message of Yevhen’s story is simple but powerful: Because the Global Fund is here, here I am. The international community has a collective responsibility to preserve what is best about the Global Fund, not to return to business as usual.
To view more stories, and to learn more about the Here I Am campaign, visit www.hereiamcampaign.org.