For an effective HIV response, direct investment in key populations is essential. Yet, only 9 per cent of HIV prevention resources are spent on these communities, whereas 40-50 per cent of new HIV infections in adults occur among key populations and their partners (UNAIDS Fast-Track update 2016). This was one of the conclusions during the satellite symposium titled ‘What is the future of funding for key populations?’, which was held during AIDS 2018. The event was hosted by: Bridging the Gaps, the Partnership to Inspire, Transform and Connect the HIV response (PITCH) and the Resilient, Empowered ADolescents and Young people (READY) programmes, all supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of The Netherlands.

The meeting was organised to share best practices in funding and to address challenges and opportunities of universal health coverage. It was also an opportunity to advocate for continued and increased direct funding for key populations. The session brought together funders of key population HIV programmes and advocacy work, activists from key population movements and government representatives.

Funding gaps

The symposium attendees shared their motivations to invest in key populations, the results achieved so far and what barriers remain. Besides the aforementioned conclusion, the participants agreed:

  • The largest programme funding gap exists in the area of harm reduction, while people who use drugs and sex workers experience the largest population funding gaps.
  • Health can be a helpful entry point to funding key population programming where it is politically sensitive. But eventually, we must achieve rights-based programming that addresses structural barriers, because this is what drives the epidemic for all key populations, including adolescents and young people.
  • Funding for key population-led organisations is needed. Organisations that have built a track record in managing funds and implementing programmes should be trusted to take leadership on their own issues with and for their own communities.
  • We all need to continue to make efforts to find efficiencies, like the Kenya Key Population Consortium, and like PITCH and READY have done with their partner Z+.

Online poll

During the symposium, an online poll was held about the current state of funding for key populations and ideas for the future. Over one hundred participants answered. It emerged that 78 per cent agreed with the statement ‘Funding for key population-led responses to HIV is the most effective way to counter the epidemic’. The majority (60 per cent) voted for indefinite financial support after the Global Fund to Fights AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has left the country, whereas 21 per cent found that key populations should be supported (by non-governmental actors) for up to five years after the Global Fund’s departure.


Speakers included: Anton Basenko, Board Member, International Network of People who use Drugs, United Kingdom/Ukraine; Grace Kamal, Key Population Consortium, Kenya; Samuel Matsikure, Programme Manager, Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ), Zimbabwe; Dang Thuan Phong, Vice Chairperson of the National Assembly’s Social Commission, Government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam; Mykola Povoroznyk, Deputy Mayor, City of Kiev, Ukraine; Anne Skjelmerud, Senior Advisor, Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation – Norad, Government of Norway; Kate Thomson, Head of the Community, Rights and Gender and Civil Society Hub, Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, Switzerland.

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