GLOBAL partners gathered at the ongoing 2018 International Conference in Amsterdam today launched a $1.2 billion funding earmarked for HIV programming for men in a bid to scale up diagnosis and treatment of HIV infection in men.
By Michael Gwarisa
The program dubbed MenStar Coalition was announced by Sir Elton John and the Duke of Sussex, the MenStar Coalition brings together the Elton John AIDS Foundation, the U.S. Partners involve include the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), Unitaid, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF), Johnson & Johnson, and Gilead Sciences.
Commenting on the program launch, Sir Elton John said, “I am so proud to be helping to launch a major new coalition in the fight against AIDS. My Foundation has always believed in partnership as the best way to find solutions, share learning and optimise what is working. It’s time for men to really, fully become part of the fight against AIDS. MenStar is going to help them do that.”
Leveraging over $1.2 billion in initial planned funding from these founding partners, MenStar will expand the diagnosis and treatment of HIV infections in men – keys to breaking the cycle of HIV transmission and ultimately ending the AIDS epidemic as a public health threat by 2030, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.
Recent data from many high-burden countries show that men, particularly those aged 24-35, access HIV testing and treatment at low rates, endangering their own health and also expanding the spread of HIV among adolescent girls and young women.
U.S Global AIDS Coordinator and Representative for the global health diplomacy, Ambassador Deborah Birx said it was time to come up with new ideas so as to accelerate programing for men.
“We must innovate and accelerate to reach more men with lifesaving HIV treatment and ensure they are virally suppressed,” said Ambassador Deborah L. Birx, M.D., U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator and Special Representative for Global Health Diplomacy.
“PEPFAR will invest over $800 million in the next year to advance the goals of the MenStar Coalition. Through our efforts, we aim to provide HIV treatment to an additional 1 million men and support over 90% of men in this age group to be virally suppressed to effectively interrupt HIV transmission.”
MenStar will support innovative approaches to deliver appropriate and effective HIV/AIDS services for men, increasing their rapid uptake of HIV testing, linkage to HIV treatment, and achievement of viral suppression. Multiple approaches will be deployed including: data analytics and human-centered design to better adapt services to men; nuanced demand creation; targeted marketing; innovations, such as HIV self-testing; and supply-side solutions.
The partnership will also ensure essential HIV commodities and services are available to meet increased consumer demand.
MenStar brings together the HIV service delivery capacities of the public sector with the consumer-oriented marketing acumen of the private sector to optimize efforts in reaching men with HIV testing and treatment.
One of MenStar’s first initiatives will be partnering with creative agencies in Kenya to develop an HIV self-testing campaign aimed at young men, supported by the Elton John AIDS Foundation, CIFF, and Unitaid to launch in 2019. The coalition will also support specific male-friendly strategies for HIV service delivery, such as dedicated men’s corners at existing health clinics, expanded clinic hours, and deeper community engagement to better reach men.
With a planned contribution of over $800 million to reach men in the next year, the United States, through PEPFAR, plans to reach an additional 1 million men with HIV treatment through its investment and support over 90% of men in this age group to be virally suppressed to effectively interrupt HIV transmission.
Given the common vision and interconnectivity between these individual efforts, the partners have formed a coalition to enhance each other’s work and achieve greater impact, including by accelerating countries’ progress toward reaching the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS 90-90-90 targets by 2020 for all ages, genders, and at-risk groups.