THE BLOG
09/29/2015 11:53 am ET Updated Sep 29, 2016

Building a Stronger Civil Society to Achieve an AIDS-Free Generation

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As the international community comes together at the U.N. General Assembly to set the new global sustainable development agenda, today progress was made toward fulfilling the goal of promoting health and well-being for people in the most challenging environments around the world.

The U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) announced that it will make a $10 million contribution to the Robert Carr Civil Society Networks Fund (RCNF) over the next three years to support and build the capacity of global and regional civil society networks as strong partners in the delivery of HIV services and champions of human rights. This investment helps bring often marginalized populations out of the shadows and into prevention services and healthcare clinics.

In addition, each of the founding donors is recommitting to the RCNF for a new three-year period. During the next three years, the UK has pledged $7.5 million, the Gates Foundation has offered $3 million, and Norway has committed $4.3 million. In today's meeting, the Netherlands expressed its commitment to supporting civil society. We look forward to future commitments from others toward building the capacity of civil society networks.

Although there have been considerable gains in preventing new HIV infections and reducing AIDS-related deaths globally, stigma and discrimination as well as harmful laws and policies reduce access to essential health services and undermine efforts towards effective responses to HIV/AIDS.

That's why PEPFAR and our partners have sought the engagement of civil society on all levels at every state of our planning processes and implementation of our programs. And that's also why PEPFAR, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Norway, and the UK first founded RCNF back in 2012, with PEPFAR initially investing $6 million over three years.

As co-chairs of the RCNF Replenishment, UNAIDS and PEPFAR will help ensure access to HIV prevention, treatment, and care services through the partnership of the networks with local organizations to achieve the UNAIDS 90-90-90 goals and Fast Track strategy. The RCNF is especially important to supporting efforts aimed at key populations that include men who have sex with men, sex workers, people who inject drugs, and all people living with HIV--from young people who have lived with HIV since birth to older men and women who have now survived over a decade due to the success of treatment.

HIV/AIDS interventions are only successful if they are tailored to the unique needs of the communities we serve. A World Bank study of HIV service delivery from 2010 to 2012 found that community-based efforts are a "cornerstone" of the response to AIDS and represent substantial value relative to financial investment in the sector. Studies from countries as diverse as Cambodia, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe point to the effectiveness and cost-efficiency of community-based HIV services.

RCNF is increasingly meeting the expectations of global and regional networks--supporting many that might, otherwise, have faced closure. There are multiple, concrete examples of how these resources have strengthened networks' structures, programs and advocacy--in turn, enhancing their ability to make a difference for inadequately served populations.

As we head home from this year's session to pave a new path toward global development, we must strengthen our commitment to inclusiveness and building a stronger civil society. Just as the formation of the post-2015 sustainable development agenda benefited from the input and participation of civil society, PEPFAR and our partners plan to have the same spirit of inclusiveness to accomplish our collective goal of achieving an AIDS-free generation.