At the recent four-day World Urban Forum 11e Session (WUF11) in Katowice, Poland, more than 20,000 people gathered to discuss the impact of rapid urbanization on cities, economies, communities and policies. To keep the response to HIV and other health services in cities at the forefront of their agenda, UNAIDS, IAPAC and UN-Habitat co-hosted a special session on Fast-Track Cities, focusing on innovation and the power of partnerships to accelerate the fight against HIV. response to end AIDS by 2030.
Eleanor Gouws, Senior Advisor at UNAIDS and Gonçalo Lobo, Vice President of IAPAC, opened the session by highlighting the leading role cities play in addressing rights issues, reducing inequalities, protection against risks and vulnerabilities and the maintenance of people’s health.
Five cities shared innovative examples of addressing HIV service gaps, specifically how to reach key and vulnerable populations.
For example, in the municipality of eThekwini -Durban, South Africa, reaching and retaining young people infected with HIV remains a major challenge. A community-based project implemented in the high HIV burden district of Inanda, focuses on capacity building, peer education and support, and working with community leaders to reduce HIV-related stigma. Their goal is to improve the use of HIV prevention, testing and treatment services among 10 to 35 year olds. Nearly 3,000 young people were reached and tested for HIV in the first six months of the project.
“A lot of effort has been put into building the capacity of health workers to ensure the sustainability of our project,” said Sibongile Mzulwini, Regional Director of the National Children’s Association. [and Youth] Care workers.
Similar efforts have been undertaken in Kenya. Since the City of Nairobi joined the Fast-Track Cities initiative, there has been a surge in the number of clinics offering integrated care and drop-in centers where key populations and young people can access user-friendly services and without stigma. The use of screening among young people has more than quintupled between 2018 and 2021 in four informal settlements. Dr Carol Ngunu, Deputy Director of Health at Nairobi Metropolitan Services, stressed the importance of “understanding our epidemics and local gaps, knowing where the quick wins lie and building community ownership in our responses. local to HIV.
In Jakarta, Indonesia, artificial intelligence is leading the way to reach young people, especially men who have sex with men. With a reach of over 4 million people on social media in seven months, Tanya Marlo, is an interactive mobile app in the form of a chatbot that provides information about HIV and can also connect users with a trained counsellor. “Tanya Marlo creates a bridge between the health system and key populations at high risk of HIV infection,” said Tono Permana Muhamad, program director at the Kasih Suwitno Foundation. “These are people who generally do not have access to health services for fear of stigma and discrimination,” he said. The foundation currently manages the application to ensure its sustainability.
Stigma and discrimination also affect the HIV response in Kingston, Jamaica. As a result, the Jamaica Network of People Living with HIV (JN+), with the support of UNAIDS, is implementing a stigma-free spaces project to ensure that places of business, health, education, justice, entertainment and worship are respectful, inclusive and transformative. “We are building a stronger urban response to HIV in Kingston, through the inclusion of communities through community-led responses and monitoring,” said Jumoke Patrick, Executive Director of JN+.
Presenting from the perspective of the host country, Magdalena Ankiersztejn-Bartczak, Chief Executive Officer of the Foundation for Social Education in the capital Warsaw, which recently joined the Fast-Track Cities initiative, said that “the influx Ukrainian refugees in Poland posed many challenges, including the continuity of life-saving treatment and support for people living with HIV.
Despite the obvious challenges, Ms Ankiersztein-Bartczak said it has encouraged them to do more for people living with HIV and at high risk of HIV infection in Poland. “We count on the support of other accelerated cities,” she said.
Concluding the session, the moderator, Robert Ndugwa of UN-Habitat, reminded participants that “cities face myriad challenges but also hold the key to solutions. They can act locally but influence globally.