Invest in youth, not another big institution, says Mark Dybul

Mark Dybul (left) during a panel session at Devex World 2018. Photo by: Devex

WASHINGTON — Global health programs often have a common structure: Donors come in and deliver funding, then money trickles down to a global institution or an implementing organization that develops programs based on what they think is needed on the ground.

But despite good intentions, health programs don’t always get the full picture and end up missing critical points of intervention.

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“Unfortunately, health programs are not focused on the patient,” said Agnes Binagwaho, vice chancellor of the University of Global Health Equity and former health minister of Rwanda.

Speaking at Devex World on a panel discussion that explored how to shift current models of health intervention to a holistic one that accounts for the needs of patients, Binagwaho pointed out that: “With HIV, it brought money to fight a virus, but not the well-being of the people.”

The implications of these shortcomings in interventions are now apparent. Mark Dybul, faculty co-director at Georgetown University Medical Center and former Global Fund executive director, says the world is now at high risk of losing control of the HIV epidemic.

There are various reasons why this is happening but a key point is the global health community’s inability to connect with youth, according to the global HIV champion, one of the founding architects of PEPFAR.

“We’re not reaching young people — we’re not understanding them. They’re not interested in the programs we’re providing for them.

“Survey[s] show that they don’t even care about HIV anymore. They don’t think about HIV; they think about jobs, reproductive health, their community, their friends, their family — they think about what everyone else thinks about … Yet we keep trying to ram HIV programs at them,” Dybul said during the panel.

The key to winning the fight against HIV and all other other diseases, is investing in youth, he said — not the creation of yet another global institution.

“As much as we’d like to, we will never get out of the institutions and the thought processes of people our age. So let’s get the people who can.

“Not only [by training them], but [by getting] them involved now, because they’ll figure out solutions as long as we give them the latitude to do it,” Dybul said.

Dybul added: “There’s hope in death … We need this generation to pass on, because this new generation does think differently.”

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About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.