Dispatch from the field: Diogo Milagre, Mozambique

By Oxfam
Diogo Milagre is Deputy Executive Secretary of the National AIDS Council, the agency within the Mozambican government that coordinates the national response to HIV/AIDS. Photo: jazkarta

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On ownership: "I've been listening to the donors tell me they want to listen to what the government wants for the last 15 years—is this true or is it just rhetoric?"

"In the southern part of Mozambique, HIV prevalence is going up, in part because of the traditional practice of having more than one long-term partner. So, the government of Mozambique, besides promoting condom use in a large scale, it is planning to promote a massive campaign on multiple and concurrent sexual partnerships. Now, concerning the scaling up of condom promotion, some partners, mainly PEPFAR, have not picked this up among their priorities. Rather, they preach abstinence and faithfulness. Meanwhile, support for procurement of medicines has been to push us towards the use of brand name drugs. I've been listening to the donors over the last 15 years telling us they want to listen to what the government wants—is this true or is it just rhetoric?

"We can plan by ourselves, we know our HIV priorities. When it comes to best practices, listen to us. You cannot just read the books that are written elsewhere in Europe or America, you have to experience what we do on a daily basis. You have to be integrated into the socio-anthropological mindset of people in order to make sure that the messages that you leave in the community pass through the generations."

On PEPFAR & donor coordination: "Sometimes we only know something is happening when they ask us to just endorse whatever they want to do."

"Sometimes it's difficult for all the donors to coordinate—they agree to do so, and then they just continue to follow the same practices as before. The Global Fund has signed the MOU [Memorandum of Understanding], but they insist on keeping bilateral contracts with both the Ministry of Health and the CNCS, so the Mozambican government has to do duplicative reporting to the Global Fund.

"What the US's PEPFAR has done does make sense in some ways. The capacity building process with PEPFAR is good, and there are also programs that I would say are very good, like the CDC's support to the Ministry of Health for prevention of mother-to-child transmission. However, here in Mozambique we have the Memorandum of Understanding and a general code of conduct for HIV work. Most partners have signed both, while the US has only signed the code of conduct. PEPFAR is about 70% of donor funding for HIV/AIDS in Mozambique. The other donors who signed the MOU represent only about 30% of aid to HIV in Mozambique. PEPFAR is a huge funding stream that doesn't align with the MOU.

"If better coordinated, I think PEPFAR's results could be more visible and better. PEPFAR's particular weakness as far as I am concerned resides in sharing information. Sometimes we only know something is happening when they ask us to just endorse whatever they want to do. Until they send us a letter or even a phone call: "Diogo, you know, there is another amendment in our support, an increase in our funding for HIV/AIDS. Could you liaise with the Ministry of Foreign Affair so as to see this process signed up..." I definitely have to do that, because at the end of the day, the money benefits our community and my people. But in doing that, I'm not saying that we are better coordinated, no, I still complain."

On how to improve: "Come into my planning cycle"

"There's another way that things should be: you have to come into my planning cycle and tell me that, look, I'll be intervening here and there, and therefore, if you have some priorities here, tell me, so that I don't put emphasis on those type of areas where the Americans or whomever are already working.