Feature story

South-South expo spotlights role of southern leadership in the AIDS response

25 November 2010

Speakers at the HIV Solutions Forum held on 25 November as part of the Global South-South Development Expo held in Geneva, Switzerland. Credit: UNAIDS

The recently concluded Global South-South Development (GSSD) Expo in Geneva, Switzerland revealed how partnerships among countries in the South have brought forward innovative solutions to address challenging and sensitive issues in the AIDS response. The expo also underlined that continued investments are needed from developed countries to strengthen the management of South-South cooperation.

Organized by the Special Unit for South-South Cooperation, the annual GSSD Expo enables developing countries and development partners to showcase and learn from evidence-based South-South development solutions. This year’s event, held from 22-25 November at the headquarters of the International Labour Organization (ILO), attracted more than 600 delegates from 150 countries. UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director, Programme Branch, Dr Paul De Day, spoke at the opening of the expo.

HIV Solutions Forum

A first-time participant in the expo, UNAIDS hosted an HIV Solutions Forum that invited country partners and representatives from UNAIDS to explain the impact and reach of innovative South-South collaboration. The forum was moderated by South African AIDS activist and the Executive Director of Positive Women’s Network, Prudence Mabele. Representing UNAIDS was Tim Martineau, Director of the Programme Effectiveness and Country Support Department.

The Solutions Forum presented four examples of successful South-South cooperation on HIV, including a collaboration within the Arab region between Christian and Muslim religious leaders working towards reducing HIV-related stigma and discrimination.

Ehab El Kharrat, an elder of an Evangelical church in Egypt, shared with participants the transformation taking place among religious leaders in the Arab region. He gave examples of how religious leaders are talking about HIV as well as rights and dignity during their sermons and religious lectures. “Religious discourse is helping to overcome stigma and discrimination,” said Dr El Kharrat. “Religious leaders have transformed their messaging – some are even talking about condoms. You can imagine the impact this is having.”

Other examples included the sharing of experiences and knowledge between networks of people living with HIV in Burkina Faso and Togo.

The future of Southern-led solutions

Looking ahead to the future of South-South cooperation, participants expressed the need for more support in replicating Southern-led solutions across countries and regions. Continued investments from developing countries would also be required, according to the delegates, to strengthen the management of South-South cooperation and to establish a flexible funding mechanism for South-South initiatives.

The UNAIDS HIV Solutions Forum ended with the presentation of awards to the four forum partners by the President of the UN General Assembly High-Level Committee on South-South Cooperation, Josephine Ojiambo.

This year’s South-South Expo Leadership Award was presented to the group representing religious leaders in the Arab region in recognition of their innovative solution to addressing HIV-related stigma and discrimination.

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