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Learning from city-level approaches to putting the HIV response on the Fast-Track

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The Paris Declaration to end the AIDS epidemic in cities has gained political momentum among city leaders to commit to ending AIDS and to address disparities in access to health and social services. To date, about 300 cities and municipalities around the world have signed the declaration.

Supported by USAID, a joint UNAIDS and International Association of Providers of AIDS Care Fast-Track cities project was designed to provide essential and strategic technical support to priority high-burden cities to accelerate the AIDS response and deliver on the commitment of the Paris Declaration. Ten cities, represented by local governments, civil society organizations and development and other partners, gathered in Johannesburg, South Africa, on 2 November to reflect on experiences and lessons learned during the first year of implementation of the project.

In all 10 cities, political leadership of the HIV response has been mobilized and city health departments are actively engaged in leading the response to HIV. In addition, the projects are receiving high-level support from local and national governments, as well as national AIDS councils. In Yaoundé, Cameroon, the project has provided an opportunity to convene partners on a regular basis, under the leadership of the seven city mayors, to improve coordination of activities, address potential overlap and review progress.

The project is contributing to innovation in cities. In Jakarta, Indonesia, concept testing of mobile solutions has identified an effective and relevant approach to reaching young people and a mobile application is being developed to reach young gay men and other men who have sex with men with key messages related to HIV testing, prevention and support.

“Cities present their own unique advantages to building a multisectoral approach to HIV and can benefit from social transformation opportunities associated with a strong AIDS response. Equity, inclusiveness, resilience and sustainability are not only key to a successful health-care strategy, they are also the building blocks to a thriving city,” said Catherine Sozi, Director of the UNAIDS Regional Support Team for Eastern and Southern Africa.

Civil society is actively engaged in the 10 cities. In Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, civil society has been active in the implementation of the project, in advocacy meetings with political leaders, national authorities and other partners, on issues related to stigma, discrimination and human rights. The Kigali, Rwanda, team highlighted the support by the project to the strategic outreach activities to provide HIV services to key populations, including distribution of more than 10 000 condoms in three different locations.

“Through the condom kiosk project with the city government, we were able to successfully reach key populations in Kigali,” said Uwase Nadège, Programme Manager of the Kigali Hope Association. “People who access these services trust others from the community, and we see this as a way to meaningfully engage with the government to Fast-Track the response.”

In Durban and Johannesburg, South Africa, the project is receiving high-level political support from local as well as national governments. In Johannesburg, the project will support the establishment of a city AIDS council, with the key goal of coordinating the HIV response in the city.

Durban, Jakarta, Johannesburg, Kigali, Kinshasa, Lusaka, Maputo, Mozambique, Nairobi, Kenya, Windhoek, Namibia, and Yaoundé are the first 10 cities participating in the project.