How the Global Fund's TRP is helping eliminate HIV, TB and malaria as public health threats

Health worker Nancy Gwarisala takes blood samples of villagers of Gegema, Solomon Islands, as part of a program supported by the Global Fund and its partners to prevent, detect and treat malaria in the country. Photo by: John Rae / The Global Fund

The Global Fund is leading the fight against HIV, tuberculosis and malaria around the world. A partnership between governments, civil society, and the private sector, the organization invests $4 billion a year to support programs in the countries and communities most affected by these diseases.

To decide how to best invest these funds, the Global Fund taps into an independent pool of leading experts called the Technical Review Panel, who review and assess funding requests submitted by countries for technical merit and strategic focus. In addition to supporting the financing of effective programs, the Technical Review Panel serves as an advisory body to the board to support the development and implementation of the organization’s strategy.

Today, the Global Fund will start seeking new panel members to serve a four-year term, starting in 2017. And they’re not only looking for disease experts. Building on the Global Fund 2017-2022 strategy, the TRP seeks expertise in health systems strengthening, community systems strengthening, human rights and gender, strategic investment and sustainable financing, and in challenging operating environments, in addition to specialists in HIV, TB and malaria.

Technical Review Panel members include a wide range of areas of expertise, nationalities, and backgrounds, including academia, civil society, foundations, national governments, funding agencies and the private sector, which allows for a diversity of views and perspectives. A group of approximately 100 leaders in their fields, members commit a minimum of one week of their time a year, including working remotely or at the Global Fund Secretariat in Geneva.

Applications for the next round of the TRP open August 2. For more information on TRP eligibility and instructions on how to apply visit here.

So what’s it like to serve on the Technical Review Panel? We sat down with two current members: Kwasi Torpey, a director at FHI 360 and an HIV prevention expert from Ghana, and Anne Austen, a British health systems strengthening consultant, to ask them about their experience.

What do you do for a ‘day job’ and what is your area of expertise?

Kwasi: I provide technical leadership in the implementation of large-scale HIV prevention, care, and treatment programs. As an associate professor of family and reproductive health, I teach both undergraduate and postgraduate students in various areas of public health.

Anne: I’m the team leader of a health systems strengthening program supporting the government of Nepal in the aftermath of the devastating earthquakes in 2015. My primary areas of expertise are in health systems strengthening and program management. I’ve worked at the national level across Africa and South Asia in the area of HIV, focusing on policy dialogue, advocacy and engagement in the planning and budget cycle for the national HIV response.

What has been your experience serving as a member of the Technical Review Panel? What kind of work could a member expect to do?

Anne: While it is hard work, I’ve enjoyed working with the Technical Review Panel enormously.

Essentially, I have participated in a number of funding windows to review proposals submitted to the Global Fund. Small working groups review five to seven proposals per funding window. A typical day starts with reviewing the country-level application in small groups, focusing on strengths and weaknesses, and making recommendations on how the weaknesses could be improved.

“I feel that I am participating in an enormously worthwhile process which is set up to serve the public good globally, specifically addressing the needs of those affected by TB, HIV and malaria, and of the health systems that support service delivery for these groups.”

— Anne Austen, current TRP member

The Technical Review Panel review conclusions from all of the smaller groups are then presented to the plenary of all serving members, discussed, and in some cases debated before a consensus is reached.

Kwasi: As a Technical Review Panel member and a disease focal point, I am involved in in-person and remote reviews of funding requests submitted to the Global Fund for funding, assessing the quality, clarity and consistency with global standards.

Being a member of the Technical Review Panel has been a tremendous learning opportunity. Fortunately, the relationship among Technical Review Panel colleagues is very collegial and friendly. This allowed me to learn quickly about the processes in my initial review, so I was in a much stronger position in subsequent review windows.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of serving on the Technical Review Panel?

Kwasi: The most rewarding part is coming to a consensus and making a decision that will help countries to achieve the desired outcomes in line with the Global Fund’s goals. Positive feedback from the country teams on how our recommendations have positively influenced program implementation at the field level is always heartwarming.

Anne: I am greatly privileged to have had the opportunity to serve on the Technical Review Panel. I feel that I am participating in an enormously worthwhile process, which is set up to serve the public good globally, specifically addressing the needs of those affected by TB, HIV and malaria, and of the health systems that support service delivery for communities and key populations.

What have you found to be the most challenging aspect of serving as a Technical Review Panel member?

Anne: It is hard work and you do have to be prepared to put in the hours during very intense meetings. Also sometimes it can be quite challenging reconciling some divergent views on proposals and coming to a consensus.

Kwasi: While coming to a consensus is a rewarding experience, it can present challenges. The review process examines the funding request from different perspectives. Collating these views and discussing to determine whether the request proceeds to grant-making can be a challenge. While there is agreement in most decisions, in some situations consensus requires further discussions, further reviews of the concept note, and additional documentation until a consensus is reached.

How has serving on the Technical Review Panel broadened your professional network and helped you to grow professionally?

“The most rewarding part is coming to a consensus and making a decision that will help countries to achieve the desired outcomes in line with Global Fund’s goals.”

— Kwasi Torpey, current TRP member

Kwasi: The Technical Review Panel is made up of accomplished professionals in different technical areas who have worked in different countries. Working in teams allows for comprehensive discussion, information sharing and learning about different program contexts.

Anne: At every meeting there are at least 20 different countries represented, often more. My network has grown substantially. I have learned a great deal from exposure to high-level discussions on countries that I was not previously familiar with and enjoyed this opportunity greatly.

Would you recommend serving on the Technical Review Panel to a friend?

Anne: Yes, absolutely!

Kwasi: Absolutely. Serving as a member of the Technical Review Panel broadens your professional capacity and horizon regardless of your years of experience. It allows you to learn from other experts in different fields.

Would you like to be considered for the Global Fund’s Technical Review Panel? Learn more about what to expect, the kinds of expertise they seek and how to apply here. Applications are being accepted August 2 through September 5, 2016.

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