Community Voices

The power of partnership in fighting the AIDS epidemic

The power of partnership in fighting the AIDS epidemic

By Dr. Huma Abbasi, General Manager, Global Health and Medical, Chevron Corporation

Today, there are 36.9 million people living with HIV/AIDS and more than 95% of those living with HIV are in developing countries where access to effective health care is often challenging. In an age of unprecedented health innovation, these numbers are unacceptable. Goal 17 of the Sustainable Development Goals encourages global partnerships and cooperation of governments, organizations, business and non-profits for sustainable development. When we convene at the 21st International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2016) this July, we – the public and private sectors, community leaders and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) alike – must join together to address this epidemic that continues to devastate communities.

Some of Chevron's largest operations are located where the grip of AIDS is the strongest. And because fighting HIV/AIDS is a challenge in many places we call home, it is also challenging to our business. At the outbreak of the epidemic in the 1980s, we recognized the need to raise our employee’s awareness and reduce the stigma of HIV/AIDS, so we got involved. What started as a focus on supporting our employees grew into an effort to support and engage their families, children and eventually entire communities. This evolution helped us realize the significant role a multinational company can play in solving some of the world’s most pressing social issues- including improving access to health care aimed at eradicating diseases.

And we have learned that we cannot do it alone. The best work happens when the private sector, local governments, international organizations and non-profits come together to collaborate. By collaborating, we each leverage our respective, unique resources in the fight against AIDS. Through working in cross-sector health partnerships, we have also learned a few key lessons about what makes them successful.

Build a shared agenda
The best partnerships are based on a shared agenda, common goals and a long-term commitment. At Chevron, we have learned to align with our partners on providing health access, education and care and to focus on vulnerable populations like women and children. In working with different groups, a long-time horizon helps build trust with local communities and stakeholders and commits to delivering the best outcomes. In our work with Pact, The Global Fund, Born Free Africa and the Nigerian government, we have built a partnership approach that is founded on a shared agenda.

Listen to local needs
Assessing local needs is critical to building an understanding of what exists in a community, what has been tried and what is still lacking. For example, over the past decade, external donor funding has flooded Nigeria and both PEPFAR and The Global Fund have contributed significant resources to the national HIV programme. Despite this burden and the available resources, the reduction in new HIV infections in children has been minimal. We decided to take action by partnering with Born Free Africa to support Nigerian talent with experience in management and health systems to work with the Ministry of Health to assess the prevalence of mother-to-child transmitted infections. With an improved understanding of the local context, we were able to work together to develop and implement plans to prevent transmission.

Measure and report on impact
The best partnerships require rigor and alignment on evaluation, which helps all partners capture impact and value, and sets a baseline for improvement.Impact-based evaluation reports also keeps partners focused on how they are defining success and what matters most to the community. Reports like these allow partnerships to track results, highlight milestones and pinpoint challenges to achieve lasting impact.

We look forward to convening with our partners – Pact, The Global Fund, Texas Children’s Hospital/BPAI, North Star Alliance, Desmond Tutu Foundation, Wits Health Consortium (IMAGE Project), PEPFAR and Pangaea Global Health – and other like-minded organizations at AIDS 2016 where we can share ideas, work through challenges, and seek opportunities for collaboration in the true nature of partnership.