Global Fund Meeting in Chiang Mai: You talk, We Die
HDN Key Correspondent
16 October 2003: Coalitions of Thai activists staged a demonstration about
the lack of funding and political commitment to scale up treatment and
services for marginalized populations in Thailand as well as the lack of
meaningful participation or involvement of people living with HIV on the
Country Coordinating Mechanisms (CCMs). Most of the activists belonged to
Thailand Treatment Access Group (TTAG), Thailand Drug-users' Network
(TDN), Thailand Network of people living with HIV (TNP+) and Thailand NGO
Coalition on AIDS (TNCA).
Not less than one hundred activists began the march chanting slogans like
"You Talk -- We Die" and "Global Fund promise is Life but Global Fund
reality is Death". There were countless placards and banners in English
and Thai raising people's issues such as "Treat The People!", "Fund the
Fund now", "Don't betray the people", "China : Thanks for the Panda bear,
but where is the money -- Fund the fund now!"
Just outside the hotel where the 6th board meeting of Global Fund to fight
AIDS, TB and Malaria (GFATM) is taking place, the march stopped and the
agitation intensified until Dr Richard Feecham, Executive Director of
GFATM came out of the meeting onto the road to meet the protestors and
receive the memorandum prepared for him. There were 10 people living with
HIV on the delegation of this board meeting, who also came out to join the
Dr. Feecham, addressed the crowd, "thank you for coming over, thanks for
your voice, if it was not for voice of people living with HIV, the Fund
would not exist. Please keep your voices loud, please keep your voices
strong, and people around the world need your voice". Dr Feecham continued
"Global Fund was created to be a large fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria,
and we are heading in that direction, but we have far to go. We need to
greatly expand prevention programs and also scale up the access to
anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) for people living with HIV. In Thailand,
because of the Global Fund, the number of people living with HIV who are
getting ARVs will expand to 50,000 - but 50,000 is low. We need to expand
far beyond 50,000 so that everyone who needs ARVs should be able to get it"
Asia Russell of Health Global Access Project and a delegate at this GFATM
meeting, said that "8500 people are dying everyday of HIV. It is a shame
how governments of Japan, Australia and US are not keeping their words and
not funding the Fund as earlier pledged."
Karyn Kaplan, of TTAG and TDN said that "In Thailand, a significant
proportion of HIV+ positive people are IDUs, and the proposal to GFATM on
behalf of TDN/TTAG to increase access to treatment for IDUs has been
supposedly sabotaged by the government." She asked Dr Feecham, "Why is
this? Will they get funds?".
Dr Feecham, responding to Karyn Kaplan said that "we have heard your voice
very clearly. The proposal submitted has been forwarded to the Technical
Review Committee and very soon the outcome will be known".
Mrs. Phillips -- another delegate, said that she wanted to come across to
protestors from the side of the Global Fund delegation. She said that
issue of IDUs is not only in Thailand but in several countries in the
Asia-Pacific region including Nepal, and we need to bring it to the fore
because increasing number of IDU are contracting HIV.
Karyn Kaplan emphatically said that "If the Global Fund doesn't care to
work hard how can they expect donor countries to? They have to set a
higher standard for promoting urgent funding for large treatment proposals
and meaningful participation of people living with HIV to keep the promise
of Kofi Annan at UNGASS in June 2001".
One angry protester shouted at the Global Fund delegates behind the
barriers "you are staying in this 5-star hotel at Chiang Mai - kids are
dying in Africa, why don't you stay with us in the so much more affordable
guest house across the road?".
Stu Flavell from Global Network of People living with HIV (GNP+) said "we
are very disappointed with this 3rd round because Global Fund people are
only scratching the proposals that don't challenge the donors". Stu also
critically pointed out the shrinking role of NGOs in decision-making at
GFATM meetings. Governments are the primary recipients so they should
learn to work more closely with NGOs. "Shame on TRP (Technical Review
People)", said Stu. Stu raised a very valid question on Dr Feecham?s
comment on people living with HIV having a "voice" and said that
"Is it not shameful that people living with HIV have a 'seat' but no vote
on Global Fund committee? And they say 'we have a voice' but without a
vote how can we exercise our voice or participate in decision-making
process? Thousands of people living with HIV are dying without getting
access to treatment, care and support. We just can't wait."
Deliberations about whether the Global Fund has enough money to invite a
4th round or funding applications from countries this year continue in
Chiang Mai today.
HDN Key Correspondent
Chiang Mai, Thailand, 16 October 2003
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