FCO must maintain robust voice on HIV following DFID merger

Three women who work for WINGS © Frontline AIDS/Gemma Taylor/2019
The Delhi WINGS team. WINGS is a female-focused harm reduction programme operating in Delhi, Pune and Manipur.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced a 'merger' of the UK Department for International Development (DFID) with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO). A new department - the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office - will be formed in the autumn.

Christine Stegling, Executive Director at Frontline AIDS said:

“DFID was one of the first donors to recognise and respond to the global AIDS pandemic, and for more than 20 years has been a driving force in strengthening health systems, fighting for women’s rights and tackling the poverty and inequality that drive HIV and AIDS. The loss of an independent DFID, and the Prime Minister’s focus today on using aid to advance security and to further UK interests, represents a significant blow to the UK’s influence and impact on these critical issues.

“While we welcome the government’s continued commitment to its target on aid spending, we strongly question the wisdom of embarking on a time-consuming reorganisation in the middle of a global health crisis. It is also concerning that such a far-reaching decision has been pushed through without any consultation with those it will affect. Recipients of DFID funding are already in crisis – both responding to COVID-19 and experiencing delays resulting from it.  This move risks causing further hold-ups and inefficiencies at a time when speed and impact is essential.

“Now that this decision has been made, it’s vital that the new Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office works quickly to sustain funding for its current programmes and commits to maintain the same robust voice on areas such as HIV, sexual and reproductive health and gender equality.”