Global AIDS Policy Watch deeply regrets the decision of the US Global AIDS Program to suspend direct funding through the 2016 Key Population Investment Fund (KIPF). The measure impacts the work of organizations that target the most vulnerable populations in the HIV/AIDS epidemic in low-income countries, who have been waiting for their grants for two years.
The decision announced by Deborah Birx, Ambassador-at-Large and US Global AIDS coordinator, represents a significant setback and defeat for the global AIDS movement, a harsh critic of the current epidemic funding response.
The new measure that establishes grants via the traditional PEPFAR channels run by government agencies subverts the whole reason of the KPIF and also fails to guarantee that the full planned amount ($ 100 million) will reach grassroots organizations working with key populations, the fund’s intended beneficiaries.
Reports from UNAIDS show there were 1.8 million new HIV infections in 2017, only 100,000 less than in 2010, of which 47% comprises affected key populations, including men who have sex with men, sex workers, people who use injectable drugs and LGBTQs.
In the face of a challenging context of HIV epidemic growth and the high percentage of new infections represented by key populations, coupled with the conservative politics under Trump, especially in regards to sexual politics, it is troubling to wonder to what purpose the fund will meet and how it will be invested in these populations.
It should be recalled that, in June 2018, a new manual was adopted by USAID, one of the main agencies that manages PEPFAR’s grants, mandating that henceforth technical and programmatic decisions in terms of funding would be assigned to the highest political leadership levels. This change, mainly focused on UN funding, is also rooted in religious objectives aimed at securing more assistance to Christian beneficiaries in humanitarian missions.
Beyond USAID, the expansion of evangelical influence in the Trump administration, especially in health policy-making, was object of an article in the Washington Post. The piece establishes connections between another government agency used by PEPFAR, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – run by evangelical Robert Redfield – Birx, who is also evangelical, and other positions occupied by evangelicals in the White House, responsible for overseeing and enacting health policies at the federal level.
The strategy that claims to support so-called “religious freedom,” as Trump and his cabinet argue, in fact curtails sexual and reproductive rights in order to propose conservative religious policies. This is an aspect that should not be overlooked when we reflect on the various circumstances surrounding the KPIF decision and global HIV/AIDS policy, which reduces the attention given to key populations in responding to the epidemic.
Brazil, 2018 August 27
Global AIDS Policy Watch