AVAC and Partners Seek to Influence PEPFAR 2021-25 Strategy and Accelerate Impactful Key Population Programming

September 7, 2021

The last PEPFAR strategy 2017-2021 announced in 2017 by then-Secretary of State Tillerson was a brief document outlining a strategy for thirteen priority countries. Its announcement came as a surprise to many since it had been developed without civil engagement. That strategy was due to expire at the end of 2020, therefore, PEPFAR responded to advocates, including AVAC, COMPASS partners and the Global AIDS Policy Partnership, by calling for a more robust stakeholder engagement process as it develops its updated strategy. PEPFAR convened a series of stakeholder “listening sessions” and called for responses to key questions in a survey.

PEPFAR’s priorities are critical to global and national efforts to end the HIV/AIDS pandemic. As the largest funder of HIV/AIDS programming in the world, PEPFAR has the power and opportunity to move the dial. It’s no surprise that a large number of AVAC partners and other civil society organizations in Eastern and Southern Africa heard the call for comments and suggestions for the new strategy—and responded. That response, formulated into seven key priorities, was delivered this week to PEPFAR in a statement entitled Seven Global Civil Society Priorities for the 2021-2025 President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) Strategy. The seven priorities are:

  1. Fix PEPFAR’s Leadership Vacuum by nominating a qualified, world-class leader to run PEPFAR.
  2. Repair harms from COVID-19 by establishing an ambitious set of targets for treatment, prevention, and human rights. These targets must aim at a rapid recovery from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and return to pre-pandemic levels and beyond.
  3. Reject a Zero-Sum approach to defeating pandemics. There must be a broader US government platform for other health issues while maintaining PEPFAR’s focus on HIV.
  4. Prioritize ending AIDS deaths which are unacceptably high.
  5. Meaningfully involve communities at all levels of PEPFAR planning and implementation.
  6. Create a new strategic Initiative for key populations. This initiative must include innovative ways to fund interventions that address structural barriers with human rights-centred programming. (An additional document, created in partnership with Health GAP and PEPFAR Watch, focused specifically on Where is PEPFAR’s Strategy for Key Populations?.)
  7. Heighten focus and investment on the prevention gap.

The statement includes specific recommendations for each of these priorities and is signed by nearly 200 civil society organizations. AVAC and partners will be looking at the new strategy when it is released, possibly even this month, to see how our priorities are reflected in the final document.