Bridging the Gaps partners Mainline, Aidsfonds, KNCV and TB/HIV Care (South Africa) jointly organised a workshop at the Dutch National Conference on STIs, HIV and Sex in search of the answer to this question. While funding is under pressure, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs has funded two large strategic HIV/AIDS partnerships for the coming five years: ‘Beat the Epidemic’ and ‘Bridging the Gaps’. This shows the Dutch commitment to continue doing what they do best: addressing sensitive issues. But will it be enough to end AIDS in 2030?
On the Fast Track to End AIDS in 2030: focus on key populations
The Netherlands is an important donor in the HIV field and has formed a strategic partnership with UNAIDS to ensure alignment of their efforts. Monique Middelhoff (UNAIDS) gave an overview of the strategic choices UNAIDS made for the coming years. Their vision is reflected in a newly published report: On the Fast Track to End AIDS in 2030. The report emphasises the need to focus on key populations like injecting drug users to beat the epidemic by 2030.
Advocacy for sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR)
Renet van der Waals (Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs) explained that SRHR is one of the key pillars of the Ministry. This includes HIV prevention, testing, treatment and support and promotes harm reduction interventions. The establishment of strategic partnerships is crucial for effective lobby and advocacy.
UNGASS on Drugs 2016: an international plea for harm reduction
One of the important upcoming events to focus Dutch advocacy efforts on is the UNGASS on drugs in 2016. The Netherlands will hold the EU presidency during the UNGASS, which means that its statement holds much importance. Representing all 28 member states is not easy, but The Netherlands is committed to making an international plea for harm reduction.
Advocacy on the ground: effective service delivery for drug users in South Africa
Bridging the Gaps partners TB/HIV Care and OUT LGBT Well-being are running harm reduction services in three cities in South Africa. Shaun Shelly explained what the effects of international and national drug policies are on the ground.
Harm reduction is very controversial in South Africa, even though there is a huge risk of a concentrated HIV epidemic among South African drug users.
Shaun made three main points in his presentation:
- Dutch investment in advocacy needs to go hand in hand with an investment in service delivery;
- Local advocacy is vital to allow for service delivery to start and continue;
- Support from international donors (particularly other governments) is essential to help civil society access national government in South Africa.
Shaun’s presentation also showed that Dutch advocacy messages should not only focus on low-income countries. Focused diplomacy could influence not only the South African position during the UNGASS, but also the position of the entire African continent.