WHO awards million dollar contract for global treatment preparedness activities

WHO/Sven Torfinn

18 NOVEMBER 2004 | GENEVA -- The World Health Organization (WHO) is awarding a USD$1 million contract to a global consortium of people living with HIV/AIDS and treatment activists to help prepare people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) for antiretroviral treatment (ART).

Following a competitive process, the Collaborative Fund for HIV Treatment Preparedness consortium - a programme created in 2003 to channel funds for community-based education, managed by the US-based organization the Tides Foundation - was awarded the contract through WHO's 'Preparing for Treatment' programme.

The WHO initiative supports community-based treatment preparedness activities as part of the drive to increase access to treatment and prevention in line with the "3 by 5" target to get three million people living with AIDS on antiretroviral treatment by the end of 2005.

"People living with HIV/AIDS need to know about antiretroviral medicines. Those who currently have access to treatment need this knowledge to be informed about their treatment and to ensure they know how and when to take their medicines. Those without access need this knowledge in order to become active in advocating for scale up in their countries," said Dr LEE Jong-wook, WHO Director-General.

In implementing the million dollar grant, the Tides Foundation-Collaborative Fund is supporting more than 30 networks of PLWHA around the world in treatment preparedness activities, including treatment literacy projects and civil society advocacy initiatives.

"This proposal ensures the participation of people living with HIV/AIDS in all aspects of the programme and at all levels of decision-making and activity," said Dr Jim Yong Kim, Director of the HIV Department at WHO.

Treatment preparedness activities aim to give people on or in need of antiretroviral treatment easy-to-understand information about issues such as how HIV works in the body, HIV testing, opportunistic infections, the different treatment types available and how they work, how to take treatment correctly and the support services that are available.

This information can be conveyed in many ways, including through workshops, publications and other activities designed to educate communities about obstacles to accessing treatment and enable them to contribute to local treatment policy development and advocacy efforts. All treatment preparedness activities aim to ensure the meaningful involvement of people living with AIDS and their communities in decisions regarding their care, including the distribution of resources.

"This is perhaps one of the greatest UN-led examples of implementation of the GIPA (Greater Involvement of People with AIDS) principle [established in 1994]. The contract award shows a commitment to a community-driven model, relying on the expertise of people living with AIDS and community-based groups to developing projects they need to do. It also acknowledges that treatment preparedness is as important a component of the "3 by 5" success as is receiving the drugs," said David Barr, Senior Philanthropic Advisor for the Tides Foundation.

In addition to WHO, the Collaborative Fund is supported by a growing number of donors from around the world including Rockefeller Foundation, Ford Foundation, Open Society Institute, the Stephen Lewis Foundation, and AIDS Fonds Netherlands. To date, $3.4 million has been raised to support activities through the end of 2005 and fundraising for continued activities is on-going.

The Collaborative Fund distributes funding to regional networks of people living with HIV/AIDS who then establish grants initiatives and tendering processes at the community level. In each of these regions, workshops are already under way to help develop the treatment preparedness agenda. Supporting the 'Preparing for Treatment Programme', UNAIDS has contributed over 100,000 USD over the past year to these regional meetings and will be providing a 'best practices' document based on experiences of programmes in late 2005.

"UNAIDS is pleased to support WHO in this innovative movement to expand treatment access. Providing people living with HIV with the necessary tools to access treatment is vital to improving their quality of life and engaging them in expanding access to treatment and care," said Dr Peter Piot, UNAIDS Executive Director.

The concept of treatment preparedness was defined at the International Treatment Preparedness Summit, held in Cape Town, South Africa in March 2003 and was based originally on examples of activists preparing for their own treatment. The Summit led to the creation of the Collaborative Fund to generate funding for such activities.

WHO's 'Preparing for Treatment Programme' was initiated in July 2004 when WHO called for applicants with global reach and local capacity in the world's most affected countries to submit tenders to design and operate programmes. With over 140 enquiries, some 30 tenders were reviewed by a WHO panel before the award of the contract to the Tides Foundation-Collaborative Fund. "Making this happen has been a dream for WHO and underlines the recognition that the future of health belongs as much in the hands of those affected as those who care for them. Treatment preparedness is key to "3by5" and a first instalment towards reaching universal access for all who need it," said Dr Kim. The million dollar contract is the first of what WHO hopes will be an ongoing process within the Preparing for Treatment Programme with the aim of supporting additional community-based treatment preparedness activities as funding becomes available.