Foreword from Solange Baptiste
Investing in Communities – Now, More Than Ever!
Solange Baptiste, Executive Director of International Treatment Preparedness Coalition (ITPC), shares her reflections on the task ahead in her foreword for ITPC’s Annual Review 2016.
The world changed in 2016. Things were difficult before, but a whole new level of challenge has unfolded for people living with HIV and for civil society as a whole. The populism sweeping Europe and the US is resulting in a new kind of politics that is rescinding on environmental commitments, closing down borders, and reducing aid spending. Already, funding and political will to end AIDS was withering on the vine. Now there is a palpable sense of crisis.
In July, having blocked key population organizations from attending the negotiation process for the “Fast Track to End AIDS” declaration, member states defended their positions based on prejudice and discrimination. Governments that were leading the way on ‘access to medicines’ are now actively working against civil society in India, Thailand, Russia, Argentina and Brazil. Stock outs of antiretroviral drugs are threatening the right to health in many countries, including the entire West African region, where three in four people do not have access to life-saving HIV medicines. Since 2010, there have been no declines in new HIV infections among adults, and every year since then, about 1.9 million adults have become newly infected with HIV. We are a long way from 90-90-90 with fewer than half of people living with HIV on treatment, and even further away from ending AIDS if these trends persist.
How do we respond? Despite how it may look, the true power to influence the changes needed ultimately lies with those people most affected by HIV. The more knowledgeable and engaged people become, the better they can fight to change the systems that oppress them, hold duty-bearers to account, and improve their own health. Now, more than ever, is the time to invest in these communities and strengthen their capacity to demand, monitor, and work with others to achieve their right to optimal health. We made impressive progress empowering communities in 2016:
- Globally, we directly strengthened the advocacy capacity and HIV treatment knowledge of over 270 activists in 36 countries; and these treatment activists went on to mobilize peers and galvanize policy makers to improve access to routine viral load testing.
- With ITPC regions and partners, we conducted training, coordinated community research, and supported advocacy through 125 interventions in over 75 countries.
- Our intellectual property interventions contributed to projected combined annual savings of almost US$700 million for national health budgets in Argentina, Brazil, Ukraine, and Thailand.
ITPC achieved these wins in a harsh environment, with depleting resources and a very small, but dedicated and creative team. We would not have been successful without the support of our amazing and progressive donors who know the value and impact of strengthening the capacity of affected communities.
Our niche is clear. Our work investing in communities is more relevant than ever. When we educate people living with HIV about their rights, we light a fire that fuels a demand for justice. We are building a spirit of activism that is strong, bold, collaborative, and rooted in the knowledge that, ultimately, we are partners in the fight for equal access to good health and quality of life.
– Solange Baptiste