Labib El-Ali — June 29, 2011 – 11:04 am
Blog contributed by Labib El-Ali, Multilateral Campaigns Coordinator, Advocacy to Control TB Internationally
I am currently attending The Global Fund to Fight AIDS TB and Malaria’s fourth Partnership Forum* in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Like everyone else in the room, I work on these issues every day and yet I was still moved during the opening plenary by a speech made by Jacqueline, a young Brazilian woman who contracted HIV/AIDS from her mother. Born with the disease, Jacqueline spoke about what it meant for her as a child to come to terms with the fact that she will have to live with the burden of it for the rest of her life, and be saddled with a daily dose of anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs that set her apart from her peers, reinforcing the already powerful stigma that she had to face.
The fact that Jacqueline is alive, healthy, and empowered today to tell her story alone is testament to the urgency of extending universal access to life saving ARVs to anyone living with HIV. It is also worthwhile to note that later in the day, a panelist in the closing session remarked that it was not so much the availability of the ARVs that Jacqueline dwelled on, but the many different steps, services, and people (doctors, counselors, and other care providers) that enabled her to not only treat and come to terms with her illness, but to be empowered against it, to not let it rule her life. It was all the pieces of the community and health system that made that possible.
Powerful as the prologue was, the most moving moment of Jacqueline’s story was when she introduced the audience to Hector, her baby boy, who was born HIV free, thanks to preventive therapy to prevent vertical (mother to child) transmission. Jacqueline was visibly moved and unable to continue from there, except to say that he was her reason for living. Needless to say, she brought the possibility of a world where no child is born with HIV so much closer to the Forum’s participants.
Jacqueline’s is only one story, but highlights the power that the Global Fund has to save the lives of and change the future for millions of people and thousands of communities around the world. It is not hard to imagine what dignity and life saving treatment Global Fund financing has brought to people suffering from malaria, TB, and AIDS - women and men - including neglected and vulnerable transgendered, drug user, prisoner, and migrant communities.
We all need this daily reminder that our work is connected to people we may never meet, but whose lives depend on smart work and increased funding for equal access to medicines.
MPs from major donor countries to the Global Fund were present to hear Julia’s story, and will walk away from the Forum with even more conviction of what is possible if the Fund is replenished fully. As we approach the midterm replenishment of the Global Fund, possibilities like a born-hiv-free world, as well as bending the curves of the three diseases, will be critical in engaging donors for increased investment in the Fund.
ACTION’s report on Children and tuberculosis is coming soon!
*The Partnership Forum is hosted by the Global Fund to draw on the knowledge and experience of 400 delegates from the Global Fund secretariat, communities affected by the three diseases, technical partners (i.e. UNAIDS, Roll Back Malaria the Stop TB Partnership, the World Health Organization), members of Country Cooperation Mechanisms (CCMs), the private sector, Members of Parliament and global health advocates.to shape the Global Fund’s strategy for financing through 2016.