The President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) understands the critical role of civil society, including homegrown community-based organizations, in our efforts to fight HIV/AIDS. As the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, I was pleased to announce recently that PEPFAR will provide $1.5 million to support global and regional civil society networks to provide technical support, strengthen collaborations, and build strong leadership and capacity in communities highly impacted by HIV.
Local civil society organizations are often closest to the communities most affected by HIV, and serve as essential bridges for these populations into prevention, treatment, and care. However, many local grassroots organizations are small and need help with the “how-to” aspects of service delivery. PEPFAR support will allow larger networks to expand their efforts to share technical and management expertise with these front-line organizations.
An engaged and supported civil society is an essential part of the move toward country ownership of effective national AIDS responses that save as many lives as possible. PEPFAR is also exploring long-term strategies for supporting the vital role of civil society and community-based organizations through our Partnership Frameworks and country plans, support for community systems strengthening in Global Fund grants, and ongoing dialogue with civil society and other donors.
Since the very beginning of the AIDS epidemic, civil society has been a leader in building solidarity among impacted communities in the response against HIV/AIDS. I joined this effort in 1981 as a physician at San Francisco General Hospital -- ground zero of the epidemic here in America. I recall how the gay community mobilized community-based efforts that became the foundation of the HIV response. These organizations showed us what humanity, dignity, care and compassion look like -- a response that has since been echoed around the world as AIDS has impacted millions of lives. We have seen mothers living with HIV reaching out to other mothers to provide support. We have seen churches demonstrating compassion and love as they provide care for persons living with HIV. We have seen youth educating their peers about HIV prevention and gender-based violence. Civil society has been essential to the response.
During my travels, I have had the opportunity to meet with civil society in countries around the world to learn about the contribution of community-based organizations and to discuss PEPFAR support for their bold efforts. Recently, I served as a panelist in a civil society hearing hosted by UNAIDS in advance of the June United Nations High-Level Meeting on AIDS. This hearing provided important ideas on how we can all work together to advance our shared goals.
I have been pleased to be part of a dialogue driven by the Free Space Process, a coalition of global and regional HIV community networks, along with donor governments, foundations and UNAIDS. Through this dialogue, we have explored short- and longer-term strategies for strengthening our effectiveness against HIV/AIDS. When we work together, we can find new areas of collaboration and emphasis. Our discussions have been an opportunity for civil society and donors to begin to think together about how best to nurture, support and empower community-based organizations positioned to play a catalytic role.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has said that civil society partnerships are a cornerstone of both democracy and development. In many ways, the AIDS community has been at the forefront of demonstrating the power of this engagement. I firmly believe that the partnership between PEPFAR and civil society will allow us to continue to make great strides in our efforts to provide essential prevention, treatment, care and support to those in need.