PEPFAR, Elton John Reaffirm Commitment to, Investment in HIV Support for Key Populations

During the 2018 International AIDS Conference, the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Elton John AIDS Foundation revealed initial results from the LGBT Fund, which they launched in 2016. PEPFAR also announced over $360 million in funding over the next 12 months.

During the 2018 International AIDS Conference in Amsterdam, public health officials emphasized the importance of addressing the needs of key populations in the HIV epidemic. Cementing its commitment to these populations, the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) announced that over the next 12 months, it will be rolling out over $360 million in funding to support these populations, including the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) communities.

Prior to announcing the funding, PEPFAR and the Elton John AIDS Foundation revealed initial results from the LGBT Fund, which they launched at the 2016 International AIDS Conference. According to the pair, the $10 million fund, created to address barriers and hardships facing LGBT communities and strengthen local organizations, has reached nearly 60,000 people in several sub-Saharan African countries and the Caribbean through targeted community-based projects.

“Since I founded the Elton John AIDS Foundation a quarter of a century ago, an article of faith for us is that no one gets left behind,” said Elton John in a statement. “Our LGBT Fund in partnership with PEPFAR is part of that spirit. The LGBT community has suffered discrimination and isolation in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa, which have added to HIV vulnerability and left too many people behind in accessing treatment.”

Prior research has often pointed to lagging progress in testing for infection and engagement in care and treatment among subgroups of these populations. While HIV incidence decreased by nearly 15% from 2008 to 2015, declines were seen among all risk groups except among men who have sex with men, who had the highest incidence, prevalence, and percentage of undiagnosed HIV infections.

Furthering their investment in these populations, PEPFAR’s funding includes $260 million through their 2018 Country Operational Plans and $100 million from its Key Populations Investment Fund to expand access to quality, lifesaving HIV services. According to PEPFAR, the funding will complement ongoing PEPFAR-supported initiatives, such as the LGBT Fund, that are tailored to the unique needs of these populations and which strengthen the implementation capacity of key population-led and other civil society organizations.

“We will only control and ultimately end the HIV/AIDS epidemic if we address the underlying issues that prevent people from accessing HIV services, including formal/informal fees, human rights violations, stigma, discrimination, and violence,” states the release. “When any person is stigmatized or unable to access services due to discrimination, the health and dignity of everyone in the community are threatened and the epidemic continues to expand rather than contract.”

In its 15th year, PEPFAR reaches 14 million people globally with HIV treatment. It has enabled more than 2.2 million babies to be born HIV-free to HIV-positive mothers and aids more than 6.4 million orphans, children, and their caregivers affected by the disease.