Around 1,500 people attended the event hosted by the Government of Namibia, and co-sponsored by PEPFAR; the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria; UNAIDS; UNICEF; the World Bank; WHO; and the Global Network of People Living with HIV.
Following the opening ceremony, the first plenary session included a presentation by Zahedul Islam, Director of Treatment, Procurement and Policy at Alliance Ukraine, a linking organisation of the International HIV/AIDS Alliance.
In his presentation Islam discussed civil society engagement in the development and implementation of national HIV programmes in Ukraine, with particular focus on the successful implementation of a Global Fund Round 1 grant of $100 million and a further $140 million Round 6 programme managed by Alliance Ukraine.
“Our unique experience shows the scale of what can be achieved by civil society organisations,” he said. “People from many other countries echoed the challenges we have faced, and were keen to learn how we met them.”
Among the poster presentations, the International HIV/AIDS Alliance Uganda shared lessons from its Networks Project, highlighting the key role of people living with HIV in strengthening linkages between health facilities and community level services.
The Caribbean HIV/AIDS Alliance also presented findings from research among women working in the industrial estates of St Kitts. This study, conducted with the University of California, San Francisco, investigated the feasibility of interventions to reduce risk of HIV infection in the context of widespread gender inequality.
Alliance participants at the meeting noted a renewed focus on reaching and delivering services to most at risk populations, notably including men who have sex with men in Africa.
“There was a push for implementers to ‘return to the evidence’ and develop programmes based on their local epidemiological profile,” said Natasha Sakolsky, the Alliance’s US Director.
“I was also pleased to see a clear prioritization of linkages between sexual and reproductive health, human rights and HIV.”
In keeping with the meeting’s theme of building effective partnerships, PEPFAR representatives expressed commitment to longer term approaches to HIV prevention and care, embedded in the initiative’s Partnership Frameworks.
PEPFAR, the Global Fund and the World Bank also gave their views on the impact of the current financial crisis during a plenary session. Participants discussed ways of doing more for less, such as harnessing the potential of the private sector.
Prior to the main event, Alliance representatives attended a one-day meeting to support more effective civil society participation and leadership at the Implementers’ Meeting. Key issues that emerged as major challenges in the fight against AIDS included stigma, criminalisation of HIV transmission, and addressing the needs of young people.