Community Mobilization Hampered by Lack of Funding, Structural Challenges, TAG Reports

January 13, 2017

Kenyon Farrow

Kenyon Farrow, lead author of the new Treatment Action Group (TAG) report on community mobilization

The main barrier to community mobilization around HIV and related issues is a lack of funding for activities that encourage capacity building and policy advocacy in affected communities, the Treatment Action Group (TAG) reports. TAG's report, Community Mobilization: An Assessment of HIV Community Mobilization Mechanisms and Barriers at Community-Based and AIDS Service Organizations in Nine U.S. Metropolitan Areas, is based on surveys and interviews with a variety of organizations that provide services to people living with, vulnerable to or affected by HIV. It provides examples of community mobilizations conducted by these organizations, formulates research questions and methodologies, and investigates advocacy and funding issues.

In addition to a lack of funding, those surveyed cited insufficient knowledge and training, as well as structural challenges, such as a lack of LGBT-friendly spaces as barriers to involving affected communities more in the organizations' work. Other problems cited were fear of political retribution for organizing community activism, an anti-LGBT backlash after legalization of same-sex marriage on the federal level, volatile social conditions created by police homicides of people of color and the fiscal receivership of some cities, such as Detroit.

Given the overlapping nature of health, social and structural problems, organizations dedicated to addressing specific issues need to collaborate, survey respondents agreed. However, lack of resources and competition for scarce funding sometimes prevent such coalition building. For example, Dominican Women's Health Center staff noted that immigration issues affect many of their clients, but that HIV service providers are not part of local immigration policy groups. Housing, criminal justice, health care access, reproductive rights and LGBT advocacy are other areas that often affect people living with HIV, but may be addressed by separate organizations.


Strategies to end the HIV epidemic depend on community involvement, especially when dealing with "the most conservative, unpredictable, and possibly dangerous White House Administration and federal legislature in the history of the United States," TAG says. To that end, the report lists nine recommendations:

  1. Investment in community mobilization is needed for increased community ownership and sustainable improvement in the HIV response.
  2. A national exchange for best practices, trainings and toolkits should be developed and include an online portal.
  3. Input mechanisms for meaningful community engagement must be developed.
  4. Collaboration with regional organizations and programs that deal with the social determinants of health is needed.
  5. Funders must provide money for activities that are not necessarily outcome-driven, such as community mobilization.
  6. Advocacy and civic engagement work must be funded.
  7. Participatory community budgeting is important to ensure that the services provided meet the community's needs.
  8. Community mobilization must be prioritized at all stages of strategizing to end HIV as an epidemic.
  9. Research to evaluate the effect of community mobilization is needed to support funding decisions.

Barbara Jungwirth is a freelance writer and translator based in New York.

Follow Barbara on Twitter: @reliabletran.

Copyright © 2017 Remedy Health Media, LLC. All rights reserved.

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Community Mobilization: An Assessment of Mechanisms and Barriers at Community-Based and AIDS Service Organizations in Nine U.S. Metropolitan Areas

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