UNDP halts HIV program for transgender individuals in Pakistan

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    The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Pakistan has decided to temporarily halt its HIV prevention and treatment program in Sindh, leaving approximately 18,000 HIV-positive transgender individuals without support. The program, known as “Accelerated Response to HIV Through Effective Prevention, Treatment, Care and Support,” was being implemented through the transgender NGO, Gender Interactive Alliance (GIA).

    The suspension comes as some of the program’s sub-recipients are under investigation by the UNDP’s independent Office of Audit and Investigations (OAI) in New York. The UNDP has not disclosed specific details about the investigation or the parties involved.

    Both federal and provincial health departments have criticized the UNDP’s sudden decision to suspend the program without providing any clear information about the investigation.

    The program was funded by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, and it primarily focused on providing HIV-related services to the transgender community in Sindh. GIA, as the implementing partner, followed UNDP protocols, including registering transgender individuals with the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) and opening bank accounts for them.

    GIA’s program manager expressed the difficulties they faced in adhering to these protocols, but they complied with the requirements. The NGO operates in different districts of Karachi, providing services to the transgender population in those areas.

    In October 2022, UNDP Pakistan initiated a procurement process for the enhancement of the HIV program in other regions of Sindh, which GIA successfully won. Despite this, the program faced repeated disruptions, with services being suspended in July 2022 due to an allegation against GIA’s outreach coordinator. However, an investigation conducted by CDC Sindh did not find any misconduct.

    GIA claims that its operations have been unjustifiably disrupted by the UNDP, causing detrimental effects to the community they serve. They received an “interim suspension” of their vendor status based on an ongoing investigation without being informed of the specific violations or the progress of the investigation.

    Federal and provincial health officials have expressed their concerns and have urged the UNDP to clarify the situation and provide a resolution to the issue. As of now, the fate of the HIV program for transgender individuals in Sindh remains uncertain, leaving many vulnerable individuals without much-needed support and services.