Communities reclaiming their role in universal access to HIV services

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Communities reclaiming their role in universal access to HIV services

29 May 2009

Participants at Global Citizens Summit to End AIDS which took place in Nairobi, Kenya from 27 to 29 May 2009
Participants at Global Citizens Summit to End AIDS which took place in Nairobi, Kenya from 27 to 29 May 2009. Credit: Global Citizen Summit 2009

Leonard is the father of five daughters, one of whom, recently turned 14, was born HIV positive. In addition to juggling with the responsibility of raising a family of girls, Leonard is becoming very concerned about the new challenges he’s facing with having a positive teenage girl at home. “She is growing and as a father, I must help her grow into a mature and responsible woman. How should I talk to her about sex given her HIV positive status without instilling a sense of guilt? I do not find the guidance to help me respond to her needs,” he said.

This question was one of many others at the core of the Global Citizens Summit to End AIDS which took place in Nairobi, Kenya from 27 to 29 May.

The Citizen’s Summit was organized by a determined group of civil society, including Africa CSO Coalition against HIV&AIDS, Asia People’s Alliance for combating HIV&AIDS, Africaso, Eanaso, Heard, Cegaa, OXFAM, ActionAid, the UN Millennium Campaign, Healthlink World Wide, Panos and Pamoja. The idea stemmed from the observation that there is a growing gap between the needs of the people at the forefront of the epidemic and the response that is offered at the global level.

Leonard Okello of ActionAid, Salil Shetty, and Alloyce Orago of NACC during the official opening of the 2009 Citizens Summit
(from left) Leonard Okello of ActionAid, Salil Shetty, and Alloyce Orago of NACC during the official opening of the 2009 Citizens Summit Credit: Global Citizen Summit 2009

Addressing an audience of over 250 front line practitioners, Leonard Okello, who heads ActionAid’s HIV and AIDS unit, said: “We are meeting here at a time when the world is witnessing an increasing sense of AIDS fatigue, and witnessing serious global crises: food, climate, financial and emerging epidemics. A time when there is a big global debate on AIDS funding versus health funding and we, the people at the frontline of the AIDS response, are not on the debating table”.

During the three days meeting, the participants from grass root communities, networks of people living with HIV, faith based groups and other civil society groups came together under the umbrella of the Summit’s title “Reclaiming our Role in Universal Access” to share their experience at the front line of the response to AIDS. Their objective was to learn from their peers how they can better support people living and affected by HIV in their communities and where they can find support and guidance. The Summit was also an opportunity for them to consolidate in a roadmap the challenges that communities are facing on the road to universal access and how they could contribute to overcome them.

Representing UNAIDS at the Summit, Elhadj Amadou Sy, Deputy Executive Director ad interim, spoke of the importance of the communities’ role in scaling up towards universal access and reaffirmed UNAIDS commitment to support them in their constant and tireless efforts in the AIDS response. Referring to UNAIDS Outcome Framework for 2009-2011, he reiterated UNAIDS commitment to stand by people living and affected by HIV and to enable them to demand change in governance, legislation and policy to support a response that works for them.

Building on their previous advocacy experience in 2005 which led to the G8 commitment made in Gleneagles to move as close as possible to universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support by 2010, ActionAid is planning to use the Summit’s roadmap to create a new impetus for demanding the right to universal access to prevention, treatment, care and support. At the Summit, ActionAid also launched STAR, a human rights based social mobilization methodology aiming at enabling and empowering communities to protect themselves from HIV infection and to demand their rights to prevention, treatment and care.