Journal of the International AIDS Society 2016 4 1319(1) 20712 doi 10.7448/IAS.19.1.20712
Community action, including activism, advocacy and service delivery, has been crucially important in the global response to AIDS from the beginning of the epidemic and remains one of its defining features. This indispensable contribution has been increasingly acknowledged in strategic planning documents from UNAIDS, the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the World Bank, the World Health Organization and other organizations. A growing body of literature demonstrates that community-based services can have measurable impact, serve populations that are not accessing public health services and reach people at scale.
Recognition of the powerful potential role of community has not translated into full incorporation of community responses in programme planning or financing, and communities are still not fully understood as true assets within overall systems for health. The diverse community contributions remain seriously underappreciated and under-resourced in national responses.
It is time for a paradigm shift in how we think about, plan and finance community-based responses to HIV in order to achieve improved impact and move toward ending the epidemic. We must utilize the unique strengths of communities in creating resilient and sustainable systems for health. There are several priorities for immediate attention, including agreement on the need to nurture truly comprehensive systems for health that include public, private and community activities; re-examination of donor and national funding processes to ensure community is strategically included; improvement of data systems to capture the full spectrum of health services; and improved accountability frameworks for overall health systems. Health planning and financing approaches run by governments and donors should institutionalize consideration of how public, community and private health services can strategically contribute to meeting service needs and accomplishing public health targets.