Speaking Up

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Thu Jul 7, 2011

Winstone Zulu Speaks Up: Inclusion and the Global Fund

By Winstone Zulu

It has been over seven years since the creation of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GF), the largest funding mechanism to fight the three diseases. 

From the days of Jonathan Mann, director of the Global Program on AIDS (the predecessor to UNAIDS), we have known that the best way of fighting this disease is by respecting the human rights of all people, especially those that are at special risk. Universally, it has been the people at the bottom of the heap, the ones who are most marginalized, made scapegoats, stigmatized and discriminated against by society, who have been at higher risk of getting infected and dying of AIDS. These include men who have sex with men (MSM), sex workers and persons with disabilities. 

Strangely, in Zambia these three groups of people are not represented on the Country Coordinating Mechanism (CCM), the body that makes grant proposals to the GF. In the case of MSM and sex workers, there seems to be an active and deliberate decision to exclude them from the CCM. What other conclusion could be reached when the chairman of the National AIDS Council, the institution that hosts the CCM, is a sworn homophobe whose hate speeches are reminiscent of a Nuremberg Rally?

Despite this blatant and insulting exclusion of key populations, the GF has found it fit to approve $300 million to Zambia. This huge amount of money will be spent on those who are deemed to be more worthy of the right to life and dignity than queers, sluts and cripples. The money will be used to fight AIDS in the self-respecting, monogamously married, Christian, heterosexual population who view even the use of condoms with suspicion or plain disdain. Heaven knows of what use the money could be put for such a “risk-free” population.    

One of the most attractive things about the GF is its principle of allowing countries to design and own their own programs. This concept of country ownership is indeed a great departure from the often not-so-successful donor-driven interventions. However, the GF should insist that every country have in place a set of certain fundamental “best practices” before it even agrees to look at the country’s proposals. For example, the GF should insist that all proposals, as a prerequisite to review, contain a human rights component. The GF should not consider proposals from countries that have shown disregard for the rights of minorities and other such populations. To give money to a country that, through its own laws and practices, puts certain groups of people at increased risk of AIDS is not only a waste of resources but also contributes to the spread of HIV. And God forbid that the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria should turn out to be one of the drivers of the pandemic.