Community-Led Efforts Working To Inform PEPFAR’s Budgeting, Programming In South Africa

Maverick Citizen: People’s COP shows U.S. where to spend HIV money
Anele Yawa, general secretary of the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), and Lotti Rutter, associate director of international policy at Health GAP

“…After years of calling on the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and government to take the crisis in our clinics [in South Africa] seriously and focus financial resources in addressing these widespread challenges, the ‘Ritshidze’ system of community-led monitoring was created in 2019. Ritshidze community monitors collect data using a variety of methods that reveal insights about the problems with health care services and suggest solutions at the facility, district, provincial, and national levels. That data is then integrated into evidence-based advocacy that brings new information to the attention of decision makers and holds them accountable for acting on it. Data gathered through Ritshidze is at the center of this year’s ‘People’s COP,’ an advocacy document aimed at influencing PEPFAR as it determines how it will spend millions of dollars on HIV and TB programs in South Africa through its Country Operational Plan (COP) for 2020. … Activists are busy reviewing the text [of the 2020 COP] now to ensure the interventions in the People’s COP have been correctly and fully included — and that commitments have not been overlooked or forgotten. As we have learnt in past years, just because something is promised or written down, we cannot take it for granted as a victory; it is simply a first step. Through Ritshidze, next we must track what is actually implemented on the ground — holding PEPFAR and government accountable for their obligations to people living with HIV and TB” (3/3).

Maverick Citizen: Communities in Malawi demand changes to how U.S. spends HIV money
David Kamkwamba, executive director of the Network of Journalists Living with HIV (JONEHA) and chair of the Civil Society Advocacy Forum, and Lotti Rutter, associate director of international policy at Health GAP

“Community monitoring of 12 health centers in Malawi during January 2020 revealed increased numbers of people living with HIV not returning to the facility to collect treatment in eight of those sites by the end of 2019. … What is driving this troubling reality? There are not enough health care facilities … and existing clinics are understaffed so that health care workers can’t provide the level of care they want to offer. … Two people involved in fighting for … critical changes … are sharing their stories and their prescriptions for change in order to show PEPFAR, and the government of Malawi, what it means to interact with the current, failing health care system, and why the changes activists are demanding in COP20 are urgently needed…” (3/4).