Jamra primary scholl for children affected by HIV/AIDS, drugs or poverty, Senegal (c) Nell Freeman/Alliance Participants in the Photovioce project, Ecuador © Marcela Nievas for the Alliance
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Prevention work is most effective targeted at marginalised groups


Aids Alliance

UK MPs published their report assessing the implementation of the UK government’s HIV/AIDS strategy this week.

The 50 page report expresses concern that DFID’s current strategy of funding health systems in developing countries may not be effective in providing HIV prevention and care services.

The International Development Committee Select Committee’s report points out that HIV prevention work is most effective if it is targeted at marginalised groups where HIV is spreading most rapidly.

The report goes on to point out that civil society organisations are often in a better position to undertake prevention work with marginalised groups as they are often hard to reach and distrust government health services.

Alvaro Bermejo, Executive Director of the Alliance, was one of those called to give evidence to the Select Committee. “I am pleased to see that Committee have picked up that those most at risk of HIV such as sex workers, injecting drug users and men who have sex with men are being missed by conventional health services.

“As the most affected groups they are often unable to access mainstream health services because of stigma and discrimination. The Alliance’s approach of supporting community based organisations works because members of the community know the needs and how to reach people effectively.”

“In order to provide HIV prevention, treatment and care services health systems do need to be strengthened,” said Bermejo, “but we know that communities don’t necessarily benefit directly from financial support going into health system strengthening, particularly because long-term care in the community is often delivered informally by communities and families. It’s therefore important for funds to also be channelled directly to the community.”

The MPs stated that the 2010 target of universal access to HIV/AIDS treatment ‘will be missed by a wide margin’ and that this should not be compounded by the failure of the international community to deliver on their funding pledges.

DFID’s focus this year has shifted to fragile states. Middle-income countries where DFID doesn’t have a presence any longer but there is a high HIV prevalence rate will now be the responsibility of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Rt Hon Malcolm Bruce MP who is Chairman of the Committee said, “We are not convinced that the Foreign Office has the necessary resources or expertise to take the lead responsibility for the UK’s HIV/AIDS strategy in middle-income countries. We have particular concerns about its ability to this in relation to marginalised and vulnerable people.”

While these gaps in the response have been recognised by MPs, the Alliance and other civil society organisations continue to work to overcome them and thanks to the important financial support from DFID people worldwide are being reached with HIV prevention, treatment and care services.