Kevin Evina, directeur exécutif d'Affirmative Action (photo Affirmative Action) et Franz Mananga, directeur d'Alternatives-Cameroun (photo Nicolas Beaumont : Coalition plus)

Two Cameroonian activists explain why the Global Fund needs to be increased

The Global Fund is organizing from September 19 to 21 a call for contributions from the international community, in New York, called the Seventh Replenishment of Resources. This organization hopes to be able to raise at least $18 billion to cover its programs from 2024 to 2026.

According to the Fund’s latest report, 50 million lives have been saved over the past 20 years thanks to innovative financing against the three major diseases of HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.

Created in 2002, the Global Fund has also for two decades supported programs in favor of the fight against LGBTphobic discrimination which fuels the epidemic in many regions of the world. Komitid had already told you about it.

This summer Komitid interviewed two Cameroonian activists, Kevin Ambah Evina of Affirmative Action and Franz Mananga of Alternatives Cameroon. These two NGOs (partners of the Coalition Plus network) work in particular with LGBTI+ populations, in a context of state homophobia. According to Kevin Evina and Franz Mananga, the financial support of the Global Fund is essential in this context. They tell us why.

Komitid: Why is Global Fund support important for your associations?

Kevin Ambah Evina : We have been receiving assistance from the Global Fund since 2012. The Global Fund has made it possible to take into account the needs of countries in the South, but beyond that, the Global Fund helps us with regard to human rights. In Cameroon, we have a five-year plan to tackle the obstacles that can hinder the fight against HIV. Thanks to the Global Fund, we have been able to discuss with the administrative authorities, with the police, so that the beneficiaries of our programs can come to us in complete safety. An example: if the beneficiaries were found with lubricant in their pockets, they could be arrested on suspicion of homosexuality. In 2016-2017, we carried out very large advocacy campaigns with the authorities in order to make people understand the need for these programs in terms of public health. The Global Fund has also enabled access to healthcare for LGBT populations in particular, although less so for lesbians. We have trained doctors and nurses in these health issues. The Global Fund also enables the sharing of experiences. We also organize educational talks, discussion groups, for members of the community. We were able to educate people living with HIV on taking medication, nutrition advice. Psychosocial assistants have been trained to support people living with HIV. We also train peer educators in prevention. So the Global Fund has allowed us to carry out a lot of actions for the well-being of our community. The problems are great and the needs are not all covered.

“The Global Fund has enabled us to carry out a lot of actions for the well-being of our community”

Franz Mananga : It is thanks to the Global Fund that MSM and sex workers, and today drug users, have been included in the national plans of the countries of the South to combat HIV/AIDS. We were able to put the needs of these populations on the table. Through Expertise France, our two NGOs have also been able to set up specific projects.

What do you expect from this Global Fund meeting in New York?

Franz Mananga: Sensitization of the states to increase the funds which must be at least 18 billion dollars for three years. France is also being asked to double its contribution. We must also raise awareness of the crises that the world is going through and which have an impact on the populations we help. The Covid has confined and we have seen an increase in gender-based violence with regard to trans people and gay people; the war in Ukraine led to an increase in food prices. Stigma has made it more difficult to access care.

Kevin Ambah Evina: We want States to make frank commitments. This money is really to help people. The inflation that we are experiencing everywhere will have an impact on the daily lives of the people we follow. The envelope of the Global Fund must be increased. Many children continue to die of malaria. We must also continue to help the fight against malaria and tuberculosis. If we want to achieve the objectives of UNAIDS and in particular that of eradicating HIV/AIDS by 2030, we must give ourselves the means to do so.

“We must tell donor countries that we can sit at the table as representatives of LGBT people, but in many countries homosexuality is still criminalized”

What do you want to say to donor countries?

Franz Mananga: From today, we must tell donor countries that we can certainly sit at the table as representatives of LGBT people, but in many countries, homosexuality remains penalized. There is still a lot to do. Trans people are thrown out and gay people imprisoned. Despite all the action taken thanks to the Global Fund, there is still a long way to go. After Covid, one of the priorities remains the fight against HIV/AIDS but also the fight against malaria and tuberculosis, three battles led by the Global Fund. In less than a year, we were able to find a vaccine against Covid because the states invested themselves and put in colossal means. In the States, we want to say: look, you can implement significant means against HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, as you did for Covid, with results. I’ll tell you a story: In Cameroon in 2016, a young man texted another boy to tell him he loved him. He was arrested by the police, tried and sentenced to five years in prison. He came out after three years, after an intense campaign by the associations. But he was infected with HIV and died three months after his release from prison. Today we are fighting against this kind of arbitrary condemnation. Thanks to the Global Fund, we can implement five-year plans against this violence and support LGBT people in prison or who have just been released from prison. Thanks to all these forums where we can express ourselves, we speak to the authorities to tell them that we are not the problem, but part of the solution.

A topical question. Monkeypox is endemic in several African countries. But are you facing cases among men who have sex with men in Cameroon?

Franz: It challenges us and it worries us because we are part of the community. But the attitude of the authorities is somewhat the same as during Covid, explaining that this concerns the West. Where awareness should be raised to implement preventive measures. We often get the impression that they don’t want to hear about LGBT or trans people, or as we say key populations. But the same state continues to make the environment unfavorable to LGBT rights. This is the paradox: the authorities agree to receive aid from the Global Fund, knowing that this money will also go to support projects for key populations, but we do everything not to talk about it.

Kevin Ambah Evina : the State is not interested in it but if there is a case it will be the fault of the homosexual community! At our level, we continue to monitor with our associative mechanisms. But officially, there are currently no cases*. But as we depend on external funding, we cannot support this. I had one day explained the paradox which is to take care of the health of populations while putting them in prison. I was told that public health was for everyone but that does not mean that the State agrees…