Teleconference Panellists Address the Future of the U.S. Global AIDS Response in the Era of Trump. 18/11/2016

Published by GNP+

Earlier this week, GNP+ hosted an informational teleconference, with over 200 HIV advocates and civil society representatives from around the world to discuss the outcome of the U.S. election as well as the future direction of PEPFAR, the Global Fund and other key population-focused health and human rights initiatives heavily funded by the U.S. Government.

The U.S. is the largest external funder for HIV and other global health programmes around the world. Over 6 million people living with HIV are recipients of lifesaving treatment, care and prevention services directly supported by The United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) bilateral funding programme. Further, millions more around the globe depend on U.S. contributions to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (the Global Fund) – a multilateral financing mechanism that supports not only essential treatment, care and prevention programs, but also lifesaving harm reduction and civil society support services as well.

Key populations affected by HIV – sex workers, drug users, gay and bisexual and other men who have sex with men and transgender people – feel particularly threatened by the campaign rhetoric espoused by some conservative politicians whose followers now feel emboldened by the election results. This is understandably so, as even the President-elect’s campaign was characterized by statements that fuel the kinds of stigma and discrimination that drives the HIV pandemic as well as policy proposals that would undermine dramatically healthcare access for millions of Americans. Yet despite these threats, activists remain optimistic that a strong movement can stop, or at least blunt, these policy moves and keep the fight against AIDS on track.

During the call, speakers articulated the critical role the U.S. has played over the last two decades in the domestic and global fight against HIV and how that support has been garnered in bipartisan ways from the Bush administration onwards. As panellist Matt Kavanagh, Senior Policy Analyst at Health GAP noted in his remarks, “HIV activists have reason to worry that what was proposed in this campaign could undermine progress against AIDS. But we also have been very effective in mobilizing bipartisan allies to push back against discriminatory policies and convince members of Congress to take seriously their commitments to the AIDS fight, the Global Fund and PEPFAR’’ he added that the President-Elect “did not campaign on promises of cutting foreign aid. However, the House Budget resolution and plans by the Republican right have done so, so we need to act urgently as a movement to fight for increases not cuts.” 

Echoing Matt, panellist Cecilia C. Chung, member of IRGT: A Global Network of Trans Women and HIV, said “we still have our champions in Congress, so the question for advocates is, how do we continue to build more champions and reframe some of the [rights and justice based] language that we are currently using to reach more Republican members.’’ Additionally, panellist Kenyon Farrow, U.S. and Global Health Policy Director at Treatment Action Group noted that “in order to make a reliable prediction about what direction the new Administration is going with its global and domestic AIDS policy we need to know who our U.S. Secretary of State will be and who will lead the U.S. Health and Human Services.”

As panellist Laurel Sprague, Research Fellow in HIV, Gender, and Justice, HIV Justice Network, summarized “as AIDS activists in the States…we were not a strong enough presence on the campaign trail…now we need to go to every Congressional office, Democrat and Republican, to let our legislators know that HIV matters.  For activists outside of the U.S. this is the moment to push your own Governments as much as you can to lead by example and to step up pledges to UNAIDS, the Global Fund, and other multilateral aid programs wherever they are able to do it.’’

In sum, the panellist agreed that the U.S. election results create many uncertainties and provide a sobering moment for the global and domestic HIV/AIDS movements.  Now more than ever, the domestic and global AIDS community and our colleagues in the intersectional women’s rights, racial and economic justice, immigrant rights, harm reduction, sex worker, drug user, and LGBTQ movements – must stand together in solidarity with each other to ensure that our voices are heard, our gains protected and our principles are not compromised.

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