How is the Global Fund advancing human rights?

How is the Global Fund advancing human rights?

On the occasion of International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexism and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT), Aidsfonds’ partners in Brussel, ILGA-Europe and UNAIDS, are hosting an event focusing on the rights of LGBTIQ+ people in and from Ukraine. The aim of this virtual event scheduled on Tuesday, 17 May from 12:00-13:30 CET is to raise awareness of the human rights challenges faced by Ukrainian LGBTIQ people, review actions taken to-date to protect them, and highlight additional actions that the EU should take.

As the Global Fund is entering its seventh replenishment in the coming months (see our campaign here), Aidsfonds interviewed Kate Thomson, Head of Community Rights and Gender Department at the Global Fund, one of the event’s panelists, to discuss the Global Fund’s approach to advancing human rights. We also looked at how the Global Fund had adapted its programmes to continue providing essential HIV and TB services to Ukrainians. 

Interview with Kate Thomson

Hi Kate, can you introduce yourself?

Hello, I am Kate Thomson, a long-term advocate for gender equality and human rights and community leadership in global health. I currently lead the Community, Rights and Gender department at the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and in the past have worked at UNAIDS and in organizations of people living with HIV.  I’ve been active in global health since the mid-1980s when I received my own HIV diagnosis. Read Kate Thompson's personal story

 

How does the Global Fund advance human rights?

The Global Fund recognizes that human rights are a cornerstone of health for all. Investing in human rights maximizes our investments towards ending the HIV, TB, malaria and COVID-19 epidemics. The Global Fund’s new Strategy 2023-2028 commits to further scaling up comprehensive programs to remove human rights barriers, building upon the results and lessons learnt from our work so far. Comprehensive human rights programs empower affected populations to know their health-related rights, to mobilize around these rights, and to demand changes that improve access to and delivery of services in health facilities and in communities. These programs also serve to improve the environment in which health services are delivered and to mobilize and support communities to be part of decision-making. For more information, see the Global Fund’s Human Rights page

 

How have you adapted to crises like COVID-19 or Ukraine which disproportionately impact marginalized groups?

Investments in strengthening community systems over the last decade in Ukraine have been critical for maintaining essential HIV and TB services since the war erupted. Since day one, the Global Fund has been working with principal recipients, communities and other partners to assess immediate needs, and to support adaptations of programs and the heroic work of Ukrainian partners on the ground bringing services to those in need. We were able to swiftly approve an Emergency Fund grant of US$15 million to meet the most pressing needs in HIV and TB diagnostic and treatment commodities.  Country grants under implementation (January 2021 to December 2023), worth a total of US$180 million, are game changers continuing to support communities in need. We have already approved flexibilities totaling US$13 million, allowing our Principle Recipients to act swiftly to adapt and tailor services and react to new needs.  

As for COVID-19, since the beginning of the pandemic, we have worked across a number of areas to support mitigation of its impact on marginalized and underserved groups. For instance, we supported greater decentralization of diagnosis and care via community-based and led- providers and we supported training on stigma and discrimination reduction for both COVID-19 and TB. Another area was the funding of awareness campaigns on COVID-19 and activities to reduce vaccine hesitancy among key and vulnerable populations. And last but certainly not least, we prioritized getting personal protective equipment to key and vulnerable population service providers.

 

Since joining the Global Fund, what are the achievements you’re most proud of?

When I joined the Global Fund in late 2013, I was tasked with establishing the Community, Rights and Gender department. Over the last few years, pulling together an amazingly talented and passionate group of people who have worked collectively with communities, civil society and all key partners to advance our work in these areas is what I am most proud of. Without my team’s hard work and dedication, so much of what the Global Fund partnership has collectively been able to achieve would simply not have been possible. 

 

What will a fully-funded Global Fund allow you to achieve in the years to come?

A fully funded Global Fund is absolutely critical to us being able to deliver on our new and highly ambitious Strategy. The Strategy puts communities front and centre, including a major focus on increasing community engagement and supporting community led responses. The Strategy also emphasises the importance of addressing human rights and gender related barriers as well as broader health inequities which impede access for those most at the margins and left behind in disease responses.  There is so much work to be done in these challenging areas and without a fully funded Global Fund driving forward these efforts and ensuring that they are adequately resourced will be even harder.

Why is a fully-funded Global Fund critical from a harm reduction perspective?

"There is a 95% funding gap for harm reduction in low-and middle-income countries. The Global Fund has consistently been the largest donor for harm reduction, providing at least 60% of all international donor support. As well as supporting the introduction and scale-up of harm reduction services through country grants, the Global Fund is a rare source of support for advocacy, human rights and legal and policy reform through its catalytic investment funding. Without full replenishment, critical harm reduction funding through country grants and catalytic investments will be cut, threatening programme closure and putting lives at risk" - Catherine Cook, Sustainable Financing Lead, Harm Reduction International

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