PEPFAR Expands Community Engagement

PEPFAR is encouraging local communities to get involved in the fight against HIV as countries take ownership of AIDS prevention, care, and treatment programs.

Walter Reed Program - Nigeria

This week a diplomatic communication from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) opened the door to increased involvement from civil society in the country-level planning and implementation of HIV/AIDS programming.

Last December, PEPFAR released its Blueprint for an AIDS-Free Generation, highlighting the need for an increased role from United States, in-country civil society organizations (CSOs), and implementing partners such as the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF), to influence programming in-country.

This statement is the first step in implementing that recommendation. Over the next several months, as PEPFAR country teams develop their “country operating plans” (or COPs); they are being urged to engage civil society in meaningful discussions that bring the unique perspective of local organizations and communities into the planning process. 

PEPFAR is especially urging local communities to get involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS as countries take ownership of prevention, care, and treatment programs. The statement stressed that local involvement in-country programs is essential to the fight against HIV/AIDS and that their continued support will be pivotal as programs transition toward country ownership.

The updated COP process further fits into PEPFAR’s move towards sustainability and country ownership. “PEPFAR’s vision of country ownership is one that ensures civil society voices are heard and opportunities exist for them to inform effective HIV service delivery,” the statement stated. “Increasing civil society involvement in HIV/AIDS planning is critical to ensure we are best meeting the needs of the people we serve.”

EGPAF is committed to supporting country ownership of service delivery and works to strengthen the capacity of ministries of health, local health authorities, and CSOs to provide HIV/AIDS care and treatment for adults and children, to provide maternal and child health (MCH) services, and to work toward the elimination of pediatric HIV.

As part of this these efforts, EGPAF supported the creation of three independent, voluntarily affiliated, nongovernmental organizations in Côte d’Ivoire, Mozambique, and Tanzania. Since 2011, EGPAF’s comprehensive capacity-building approach has demonstrated successful results for the Affiliates in several areas, including increases in the number of patients and sites supported; increases in programmatic, operational, and managerial capacity; and increases in donor funding.

Moving forward, EGPAF will continue to work with the Affiliates in Côte d’Ivoire, Mozambique, and Tanzania to ensure that they become strong national organizations committed to supporting quality HIV/AIDS services, engaging civil society, and continuing to strengthen government capacity.

Katie Coester is Public Policy Officer for the Foundation, based in Washington, D.C.