Here I Am: A South African Story of Support and Love of Community

Joseph Mqabulani is a South African man who was diagnosed with HIV in 1996 and receives anti-retroviral treatment through programs supported by the Global Fund. He also started a community support group in Soweto, Johannesburg, where he was born and still lives.

Supporting treatment outside traditional health system locations like clinics and hospitals, is critical in finding those who need treatment. I write here a lot about what is unique about the Global Fund: supporting community systems strengthening (CSS) as part of its broader work is one of the things the Global Fund has done well. CSS is an approach that promotes the development and sustainability of community systems and community organizations, and enables them to contribute to the long-term sustainability of health and other interventions at community level. It is also something that I and my colleagues at the Communities Delegation have been advocating, monitoring and planning to engage in throughout the reform process and implementation of the New Funding Model in the coming months.

In our video of the week, Joseph talks about how the support group he started to help people in his community continues to grow. Off camera, Joseph told the Here I Am partner who recorded his story that he even planted a garden, mostly with tomatoes, so that members of his support group had something to eat when they took their medications.

It's what Joseph says at the end of the video that made me want to share this during this week when Valentine's Day will be celebrated by many people: Joseph's video ends with him talking about the love and support his group gives to each other.

This Valentine's Day, one of our partners in the Global Fund Advocates Network is making a very urgent plea for support and action in the United States. In 2010, President Barack Obama made the first-ever multi-year commitment to the Global Fund, which allocated $1.65 billion in U.S. contribution in 2013. A very generous commitment to be sure, but there are major concerns that the Obama Administration is considering cutting the promised amount in the budget expected in the next couple of weeks. For the love of the Global Fund and all it has and can accomplish, this Valentine's Day, ONE is urging friends of the Global Fund to send Obama a Valentine and continue to urge him and his administration to share the love and commit at least the $1.65 billion it promised. (to learn more and send a valentine, click here)

A fully-funded Global Fund with a strong U.S. contribution is an indication to other donors that efforts like community system strengthening is critical in the fight against AIDS, TB and malaria. Strengthening community systems has long been a part of the Global Fund language and work. There have been frameworks, publications and guidelines developed and modified over the years to accomplish exactly what Joseph does: find people who might be affected, encourage and support them to get tested. and then provide a platform for ongoing support and counseling.

In my work at TB ACTION Group in Kenya, part of our objectives are to empower communities and TB patients to increase their role in TB prevention, care and support because it works and helps people access and complete treatment. It is the love, support and little things like tomatoes that people like Joseph and groups like TB ACTION Group provide that is helping us find and treat more people living with HIV, TB and malaria.

A fully-funded Global Fund can continue to support community and health systems strengthening, so that we can build on the momentum of the last few years and begin to end AIDS, TB and malaria.


Lucy Chesire: TB-HIV advocate from Kenya and Alternate Board Member of the Global Fund Board Communities Delegation.

About the Here I Am campaign: The Here I Am campaign is a global call on world leaders to save millions of lives by supporting a fully funded Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Here I Am brings the voices of people that are directly affected by AIDS, TB and malaria into dialogue about decisions that affect their lives and the lives of millions of others in their countries. Through video testimonies from all over the world, campaign ambassador advocacy, online actions and on-the-ground mobilizations, the Here I Am campaign is building collective power to end three of the world's most deadly diseases.