More than 120 partners from civil society, local communities, youth groups, people living with the diseases and members of parliament, among other participants, gathered in Bangkok, Thailand, on 24-25 June to speak openly about the challenges the Global Fund partnership faces as it develops its next strategy. The Partnership Forum produced vibrant and stimulating discussions on strategies to end HIV, TB and malaria as epidemics. But the meeting also reflected the realities and constraints on the ground, as community groups voiced uneasiness that marginalized populations such as migrants or people who inject drugs might suffer as countries transition to middle-income status.
"We want a Global Fund that leaves no one behind and that invests in populations, not in countries, regardless of their economic income," said Zakaria Bahtout, from the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition in the Middle East and North Africa. Shreehari Acharya, from the Raks Thai Foundation, said: "We understand transition, but we want the Global Fund to focus on particular populations that will not be taken care of by the government so that they provide really great support, continually and sustainably."
During working groups and side meetings, there was a strong push for the role of communities in the response to the three diseases, for the promotion of human rights and gender equality to guarantee access to health, for regional initiatives and for a differentiated approach for challenging operating environments and for middle-income countries, where the majority of people affected by HIV, TB and malaria now live. Young people were especially vocal. "More and more these diseases are affecting the young, so it's long overdue that the young take part in meaningful decisions," said Gaj Gurung, from Youth LEAD, a network of young leaders from key affected populations.
At the opening session, David Stevenson, Chair of the Global Fund Board's Strategy, Investment and Impact Committee, urged participants to be "frank and direct but also to dream a bit and think about the future of the Global Fund we all want." The Forum followed an earlier meeting in Ethiopia in early May. A third Partnership Forum will be held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on 3-4 September, in addition to an e-Forum for online participation and additional consultation opportunities held by technical and other partners.