10 years of Bridging the Gaps Alliance coming to a close
10 years of Bridging the Gaps Alliance coming to a close
After nearly ten years, our unique Bridging the Gaps alliance is coming to a close. Countless organisations, networks and people have relentlessly been working towards a world where sex workers, people who use drugs, LGBT people and people living with HIV can enjoy their human rights and access quality HIV prevention, treatment, care and support. On this page, the 9 Bridging the Gaps Alliance partners share key results and learnings that represent the ‘heritage’ of the alliance.
The changes we made
Between 2011 and 2020, Bridging the Gaps made significant contributions towards ending the AIDS epidemic among sex workers, people who use drugs and LGBT people around the world. The programme evaluation by INTRAC demonstrates that by working together, we have increased access to essential HIV and other SRHR services for key populations, built strong movements, strengthened the capacities of community-led organisations to hold governments accountable, and advanced the greater realisation of human rights.
The evaluators found that the programme was particularly successful in improving the provision of, access to and uptake of rights-based and gender-sensitive services for key populations. Furthermore, the programme has strengthened the capacity of key population-led organisations and networks, as well as increased their involvement in policy development, decision-making and advocacy.
Appropriate and accessible services
The results have been brought about by effective community-led responses and community involvement to bridge gaps in service provision and to increase access to quality tailored services for key populations. Key population-led clinics were established, and accessible key population-friendly services were put in place. At the same time, we have worked on integrating these services and approaches within training curricula for healthcare workers and in government clinics, where possible.
Effective advocacy work
Strategic collaboration and alliance building between different key population communities and with other movements and stakeholders helped realise our achievements. This cooperation has enhanced the effectiveness of global-, regional- and national-level advocacy work and increased influence on policy-making and budgeting. Examples are the establishment of key population platforms and consortia in countries like Kenya and Ukraine; key population representation in the Global Fund; influencing Global Fund prioritisation and funding processes at country level; and joint engagement in UN processes.
The work is not done yet
Despite the accomplishments, the work is not done yet. The crisis caused by COVID-19 has made visible what we have known for a long time in the HIV movement: in any health crisis, the most marginalised communities are hardest hit. In 2016, the global community agreed to work together to end AIDS by 2030. UNAIDS’ Fast-Track strategy recognised that investing in programming for key population communities is central to achieving this ambitious goal. However, key populations continue to bear the brunt of the pandemic, and they lack access to HIV prevention, treatment and care due to stigmatisation and criminalisation.
Community-led interventions need more funding
While key population members and their sexual partners accounted for 54 per cent of new HIV infections in 2018 (and the rates are still rising: in 2019 this was 62 per cent), a new study by Bridging the Gaps and PITCH on funding for the HIV response found that, in the same year, only 2 per cent of HIV funding targeted key populations. There is a staggering gap of 80 per cent between the budget required for HIV programmes that target key populations and the amount of funding available.
Do the Math! campaign
The study makes clear that we have to increase investment to meet the budget required for HIV programming for key populations, as well as scale up the proportion of funding for community-led interventions. Key stakeholders in the response, such as the Global Fund and UNAIDS, agree: we need more and better-targeted funding for key populations if we want to end the epidemic. To encourage such investment, the Bridging the Gaps Alliance is now running the Do the Math! campaign.
Read here how insufficient funding for key populations jeopardises ending AIDS by 2030.
Sustainability Fund awarded fifteen grants
To support sustainability of results and change achieved beyond the programme, Bridging the Gaps launched the Sustainability Fund. Fifteen grants were awarded, ranging from €3,000 for English language classes for staff to interact with international stakeholders and donors, to €33,000 for a multi-country social entrepreneurship project in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Partner organisations in Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Georgia, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Tanzania received grants.
Do the online course on advocacy and fundraising and earn a certificate!
Want to learn more about support and resource mobilisation? The Bridging the Gaps Alliance has released an online course on the subjects in English, Bahasa Indonesia, Russian, Portuguese and Vietnamese. The ten-module course focuses on knowledge and skills development on support mobilisation (advocacy) and resource mobilisation (fundraising).
A strong sex worker movement is in place
The work with sex worker organisations of Alliance partner Aidsfonds has made important contributions to the strategic positioning and influence of sex worker organisations, amplifying their voice. Sex workers from Bridging the Gaps countries are acknowledged as experts and have a seat in local, provincial, national and global platforms developing programming for key populations, health services, and human rights. A robust and powerful sex worker movement is now in place.
AFEW International: Improved access to services for young people who use drugs
Alliance partner AFEW International successfully worked on increasing access to health and psychosocial services for young people who use drugs in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. They did so by setting up peer support and family support initiatives, as well as developing a tool to register rights violations and report them to the ombudsman. Moreover, they managed to lower the age of parental consent and build the capacities of young people to become leaders.
COC: Better health for LGBT people
Alliance partner COC has substantially contributed to increased knowledge and skills that helps LGBT people to take charge of their own health and rights. As a result, more LGBT people now access quality services and have improved physical and mental health.
GNP+: Inclusiveness of diverse communities of HIV+ people
The Bridging the Gaps programme has enabled Alliance partner GNP+ and the national networks to be more deliberately inclusive of diverse communities of people living with HIV. They have been able to adapt their evidence-gathering tools, such as Human Rights Count! and the PLHIV Stigma Index, and to gather data that speaks to the specific experiences of HIV+ key population members.
INPUD: Training on Global Fund processes for activists from the community of people who use drugs
One of the achievements in the Bridging the Gaps programme that stands out for Alliance partner INPUD is the Joint Regional Training on Global Fund Processes. In February 2018, the Eurasian Network of People who Use Drugs (ENPUD), INPUD and the Eurasian Harm Reduction Association hosted a five-day training in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. The training provided a platform for activists from the community of people who use drugs from nine EECA countries to exchange experiences about their work on Global Fund transition and movement building. The training also focused on empowerment, human rights, and service provision from a community perspective.
Mainline: Projects for those whose needs are often overlooked
The Bridging the Gaps programme has facilitated Alliance partner Mainline and its partners to design, implement and scale up innovative projects for those whose needs are often overlooked or are hard to reach with regular harm reduction programmes. These include non-injecting people who use drugs, people who use stimulants and women who use drugs, as well as the spouses of people who use drugs.
MPact: Stigma-free healthcare for over 10,000 gay and bisexual men
The Bridging the Gaps programme has offered Alliance partner MPact the opportunity to strengthen the capacity of over 6,000 healthcare providers and other professionals. As a result, more than 10,000 gay and bisexual men now receive stigma-free and discrimination-free healthcare services. MPact and its partners achieved this by resourcing, funding, and providing technical assistance to fifteen grassroots organisations in the areas of service delivery, advocacy, and organisational development. They also strengthened local leadership through initiatives focused on leadership and PrEP demand mobilisation.
NSWP: Advocacy tools reflecting sex workers’ lived experiences
In the context of Bridging the Gaps, Alliance partner NSWP has developed a number of highly-useful advocacy tools. They provide a wide range of evidence to strengthen sex worker-led advocacy at the national level. The NSWP methodology ensures that the development of advocacy tools is community-led, reflecting and documenting the lived experiences of sex workers and sex worker-led organisations around the world.
Aidsfonds: Affirming the leading role of key population communities in the HIV response
Bridging the Gaps has been a ten-year long demonstration of what we already knew, but what now has also become more visible to the rest of the HIV sector: we will only end AIDS by focusing the response on those most affected, and we will only succeed if those communities – sex workers, people who use drugs, LGBT people, people living with HIV – are engaged at every level and play a leading role in the response. Alliance partner Aidsfonds is immensely proud that the Bridging the Gaps programme has shown to effectively respond to the priorities and needs of key populations globally, and that the programme generated a wealth of evidence of the effectiveness of community-led approaches.
Bridging the Gaps is coming to a close, but the Alliance partners will continue their urgent work for and with key populations. You’re invited to subscribe to their newsletters through the links below.
AFEW International is dedicated to improving the health of key populations in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. For the most up-to-date news, subscribe here.
Aidsfonds works towards a world without AIDS with a focus on the people and regions most affected. Sign up to their newsletter on young people and HIV and/or their newsletter on children and HIV here.
Mainline improves the health and rights situation of people who use drugs. Interested in their ‘thinking outside the box’ harm reduction programming? For updates, sign up here.
MPact works on empowering gay leaders around the world to stand up for their rights and promote health in their communities. Enrol for their newsletter here.
NSWP exists to amplify the voice of sex workers globally and connect regional networks advocating for the rights of female, male, and transgender sex workers. Subscribe to their newsletter here.