Last night's debate in the House of Lords led by House of Lords’ Select Committee Chair on HIV, The Right Honourable Lord Fowler proved an important opportunity both to acknowledge the work carried out by the Global Fund and implementing partners - some 3 million people have been helped with access to antiretroviral therapy to date - as well as to draw attention to how stigma and discrimination continue to fuel the HIV epidemic.
Introducing the debate, Lord Fowler said ‘In its brief life, the Global Fund has done wonders. It has approved grants worth $22 billion for 150 countries.’
Acknowledging the difficulties faced by the Fund last year, he said ‘Of course, I acknowledge that there have been some problems in resources reaching the people for whom they were intended, although frankly these should not be exaggerated. When they have arisen, they have been tackled. The real characteristic is that money donated to the Global Fund has reached its target; that is not the problem.’
Lord Fowler went on to highlight why the Global Fund is still very much needed. He reflected on his recent trip to Ukraine where he visited many harm reduction projects supported by Alliance Linking Organisation, Alliance Ukraine:
‘The real problem lies with Governments. Some do not give anything at all and simply ignore the problem that is on their doorstep. I will give one example from the area I know best, HIV. One of the fastest growing epidemics in the world today is driven by injecting drugs. It is a problem in eastern Europe and many other countries. It is certainly fuelled by criminally imported drugs, but also by deadly home-made combinations.’
‘Ukraine, where I spent a week recently looking at the issues, has a massive problem of drug users injecting themselves. There are no government-run needle exchanges and no substitution programmes, but a great deal of discrimination and stigma. All prevention work is carried out by civil society organisations, notably the excellent International HIV/AIDS Alliance. It, in turn, is financed by the Global Fund.’
Watching the debate, Zahedul Islam from Alliance Ukraine (in London attending a conference) said: ‘This debate shows that UK parliamentarians are concerned about the scale of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Ukraine, particularly among people who inject drugs. We hope that Ukrainian parliamentarians will hear this discussion and in turn, start to debate these issues themselves.’
Lord Fowler will continue to use his experience and influence to raise awareness of what can be done to reduce the harms around drug use, especially the transmission of HIV, when he attends the International AIDS Conference in Washington DC later this month.
Read more about Alliance activities at AIDS2012, and about the reception that Lord Fowler is co-hosting with the U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, the Honorable Daniel Baer.
The real characteristic is that money donated to the Global Fund has reached its target; that is not the problem.