Concerned that key partners in the fight against HIV & AIDS like the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) are losing funding due to government cuts, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), in conjunction with Kenya AIDS NGOs Consortium (KANCO), have organized a NO RETREAT ON AIDS march from Jevanjee Gardens to Uhuru Park on Friday May 10, 2013 to protest the loss of lifesaving and much-needed funding.
“No Retreat on AIDS - Treatment for All.”
Friday's protest in Nairobi is part of a worldwide series of political action spearheaded by AHF called "Keep the Promise on AIDS," which calls on officials to commit to stopping AIDS. The campaign was launched with the inaugural "Keep the Promise" March on Washington in July of last year, when a coalition of 1,432 organizations from 103 countries came together before the XIX International AIDS Conference to call for more global HIV/AIDS funding. Reverend Sharpton was among the special guests who participated, including Wyclef Jean, Ambassador Andrew Young, Tavis Smiley, Dr. Cornel West, Margaret Cho and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
Since the March on Washington, "Keep the Promise" rallies have been held throughout the United States: A "Keep the Promise" march in Atlanta, Georgia on November 3, 2012 served as a clarion call to better address HIV/AIDS in the South, through funding, health care reform, prevention and care in rural areas, and affordable housing for people living with HIV/AIDS. The third "Keep the Promise" rally and march—this time in New York City - was held in April and featured both a rousing concert and an inspiring march across the Brooklyn Bridge.
The day after Nairobi's "Keep the Promise"-themed march, the fourth United States "Keep the Promise" rally will take place in Cleveland, Ohio. Nearly 10 countries throughout Africa in which AHF provides HIV advocacy, testing, treatment and care used World AIDS Day (December 1) 2012 as an opportunity to be part of the "Keep the Promise" campaign by utilizing the campaign's messaging in local events.
The first African "Keep the Promise"-themed rally took place in Durban, South Africa in February 2013 with a focus on calling for more funding to PEPFAR since funding cuts to the decade-old program in 2012 resulted in the closure of an HIV clinic in Durban's McCord's Hospital and forced 5,000 men, women, and children to seek care elsewhere. The second such African rally in Nairobi on Friday will be followed by a similar march in Swaziland on Sunday, May 12.
More than 2,000 activists and people living with HIV/AIDS are expected to take part in Friday's march, which will culminate with a rally at the Uhuru Park Grounds. There, a concert dubbed "Msi Sare Now, Fund HIV" - slang for "Don't Give Up Now, Fund HIV" - featuring top Kenyan musicians Daddy Owen and Jaguar will be staged. The theme of the march, rally, and concert is "No Retreat on AIDS - Treatment for All."
AHF Kenya Consultant and Senior Advisor Dr. Stephen Karau has joined the call urging the U.S. government to focus on restructuring the programs to make funds go further - and even allow room for more funding - instead of cuts.
"The battle against HIV has not yet been won though we have made considerable progress," Karau said. "We cannot afford to back track on that progress - now is the time for consolidating our gains, renewing our commitment, and forging stronger alliances in the fight against AIDS."
In addition to urging foreign donors to keep the promise of funding HIV/AIDS intervention, the activists are also calling on the Kenyan Government to commit more funds to helping its citizens fight HIV/AIDS.
"We want the Kenyan government to commit to the Abuja Declaration that was signed which stipulated allocation of 15% of the national budget to health," said Allan Ragi, Executive Director of KANCO.
More than 70% of the funds used in mitigating the effects of HIV/AIDS are from foreign donors, mainly PEPFAR and the Global Fund. However, there are concerns that PEPFAR is not only likely to fail scaling-up its coverage in the next Country Operations Plan, but it is also likely to cut down on provisions in Kenya. Another concern is a need for expansion regarding a commitment in the PEPFAR blueprint to involve CSOs in its planning process.
Concerns regarding the Global Fund include needs for: guarantees by the national government regarding the involvement of civil society organizations (CSOs) in Global Fund processes; a commitment that the degree of importance around community issues will not be lost in the fund allocations process; fairness in fund allocation in light of country bans and competition; and sound, flexible funding strategies that ensure services will not be disrupted.
The march also calls upon the Kenyan government - and those of other African nations - to increase and honor its pledges to the Global Fund. Many countries remain only beneficiaries and not contributors to this kitty.
Initiatives by PEPFAR and Global Fund have played a key role in decreasing deaths and improving the quality of life for people living and affected by the disease in Africa, where many local governments have yet to commit substantive funding to health. The message of Friday's march is that failure to scale up or a complete cut of the funding would negate all the gains made in recent years.
AIDS Healthcare Foundation