Q&A: HIV, health and human rights with Mandeep Dhaliwal and Jeff O’Malley

The USC Law & Global Health Collaboration hosted Mandeep Dhaliwal, director of the United Nations Development Programme’s HIV, Health and Development Group, at USC Aug. 29, 2018, to discuss the UN Sustainable Development Goals, HIV and human rights, with commentary from strategy and governance consultant Jeffrey O’Malley. In this Q&A learn about their backgrounds in global health, their challenges in keeping HIV prioritized within a massive global development agenda and their advice about how to help.


Tell us about yourselves.

Mandeep: I’m Mandeep Dhaliwal and I’m the director of the health group at the United Nations Development Programme based out of New York.

Jeff: I’m Jeffrey O’Malley I’m a consultant involved in strategic planning and governance in development and global health work. I worked for a long time for the United Nations. Now I’m working mostly for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

How did you get into this work?

Mandeep: I’ve been working on health and human rights issues from the early days of the AIDS epidemic, and then working in India on these issues really got me very interested in international worker issues.

Jeff: I got involved in public health kind of accidentally as the HIV epidemic grew, and I was involved in HIV work domestically in Canada, where I lived, and found myself being drawn into HIV work with refugees and then in my job in development work.

What challenges are you currently facing in your work?

Jeff: Something we’re going to be talking about today is this new global policy framework called the SDGs—that’s the Sustainable Development Goals. And those have been agreed at the United Nations to guide development policy of individual countries as well as the international community, from 2015 to 2030. They’re incredibly ambitious, they’re incredibly exciting; they touch on nearly every aspect of the world we live in and that’s fantastic, but it’s also overwhelming. In health alone, they aspire to make sure that everyone in the world has access to health care. Now, the United States, one of the richest countries in the world, hasn’t even solved that in the United States! When you start trying to include Malawi and Laos in that, you can see the challenges and that’s one of 16 different goals and 168 targets. So, trying to figure out how to prioritize and how to build synergies amongst these different goals, I think, is the big opportunity but also the big challenge.

Mandeep: The biggest challenge, particularly for HIV, is there’s still quite a ways to go to achieve the SDG targets around ending AIDS as an epidemic. There’s a lot to do. Unfortunately resources—specifically for HIV and, generally, overseas development assistance—for global health is going down. So, it’s a challenge to be more efficient and effective with the resources that we have and still help low- and middle-income countries. In some ways, it’s exciting because we have the SDGs and an agenda, which helps us to address some of the more complex problems around development,  but it’s also a much broader agenda, so it’s a challenge to keep things like HIV high up on the agenda.

What can people do to help?

“…improving health of everyone — and especially improving health of the poorest and the most marginalized — it’s not just a job for doctors; it’s not just a job for public health professionals.”

Jeff: I think it’s really important that everyone understands that improving the health of everyone — and especially improving the health of the poorest and the most marginalized — it’s not just a job for doctors; it’s not just a job for public health professionals. Most health outcomes are related to other things. They’re related to the environment we live in—if you look at health outcomes, again here in the United States, for low-income African American women compared to high-income white men, they’re dramatically different. And some of that’s about access to medicine and doctors, but a lot of it is about the environment you’re living in. So, anything we can do to reduce inequality, to improve the environment, to increase access to education, to improve the status of girls and women—all of those things contribute to better health outcomes.

Mandeep: Get involved locally,  because I think one of the things that the SDG office has really put forth is that development [and] inequality are issues everywhere. So, get involved locally in the way that the City of Los Angeles is doing in terms of localizing the SDGs. Get involved with organizing in communities. Get involved with bringing students together at a university to work on these issues. There’s a lot to be done.


Watch their full presentation »