In April 2020, the Global Fund established the COVID-19 Response Mechanism (C19RM) to support countries to respond to COVID-19 in mitigating its impact on HIV, TB, and malaria programs and strengthening health and community systems. On 7 April 2021, the Global Fund launched the second phase of C19RM. All countries receiving funding from the Global Fund are eligible to receive C19RM funding, including multi-country and non-eligible countries in crisis.
Effective and meaningful community and civil society engagement are crucial for developing a robust response to the pandemic. The COVID-19 Response Mechanism Guidelines specifically calls for consultations with “civil society, key and vulnerable populations as well as communities, including those most severely affected by COVID-19”, including those countries experiencing significant disruption.
The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically altered engagement, preventing most in-person discussions and data collection while also presenting opportunities to expand engagement using new virtual technologies.
The meaningful engagement of civil society, in all its diversity, in the national consultations to develop the country proposal for the C19RM is critical. Civil society can provide valuable data, especially for key populations and harder to reach groups, as well as ensuring that all relevant partners are engaged and play essential roles in design, implementation and reporting stages. The proposal must include inputs from the full spectrum of civil society and communities—including NGOs, networks of people living with HIV, people most severely impacted by COVID-19 and key populations, in particular: men who have sex with men (MSM); transgender people, especially transgender women; sex workers; people who inject drugs; people living with HIV; and people in prison and detention.
For this reason, it is crucial to pay particular attention to the inclusion of members of key populations in the process of developing the proposal. In many countries, members of key populations are structurally sidelined. Criminalization has a knock-on effect that prevents registration of organizations run by and for members of key populations. It is crucial to create a safe environment to ensure the meaningful involvement of key populations and people who might otherwise be prosecuted for criminal offences relating to their identity, occupation or behavior.
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