Over 10 000 persons benefit from PANCAP – PAHO Webinars

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the PAHO/WHO Sub-regional Office for the Caribbean collaborated with the Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP) on a series of webinars which aimed to provide effective, timely and relevant information to the Caribbean on a wide range of topics relating to COVID-19 and HIV. The webinars were aimed at diverse audiences and served to provide updates on new scientific evidence and to share evidence-based frameworks and strategies as well as successful and innovative implementation experiences for the prevention and management of COVID-19.

PANCAP and PAHO have been intentional in combining presenters who are experts in technical areas with regional presenters on successful Caribbean implementation experiences. This approach provided an understanding of evidence-based frameworks and how these can be applied to the local context.

The webinars conducted from March to May 2020 have reached over 10,000 persons.  Participants have the option of joining the live sessions or viewing the recording on the PANCAP and PAHO Facebook pages as well as the PANCAP website and YouTube Channel.  Participants’ engagement with the webinars has been high. Organisers have received positive feedback on the relevance of the knowledge shared and the expertise of the presenters. A recent post-webinar survey revealed that 98.5% of participants gained new knowledge, while 100% indicated that the information presented was useful to their work.  In addition, 95% of participants stated that they would utilise the new knowledge in the execution of their work programmes.

The two entities will continue this successful collaboration with the overarching aim of providing critical knowledge for the Region’s response to COVID-19.

The Caribbean’s Remarkable Response to COVID-19

The Caribbean has been commended globally by the World Health Organisation (WHO), CNN and BBC for its outstanding handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. How did the Caribbean do it? As with everything, it begins with leadership. At the helm was a woman who led with distinction.  The Hon. Mia Amor Mottley, Chair of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Prime Minister of Barbados, was proactive and impressive in her harnessing of the region’s technical expertise and resources to the region’s benefit as well as Barbados. This resulted in effective and timely communication buttressed by carefully crafted messages from reliable sources to the populations of the region.

The region’s containment of this unrelenting virus is due in large measure to the effective teamwork of our agencies and their expert staff. CARICOM, PANCAP, PAHO, CARPHA, CMLF all executed an excellent containment strategy. Their sterling efforts, combined with a poised approach by all of these tireless teams is nothing short of exemplary. Kudos to ALL concerned for sharing the critical information responsibly to save many lives and so avoid overwhelming our health care systems that proved to be more efficient and organised to cope with this pandemic than many larger more powerful nations.

This is not new to the region. The Caribbean and its resilient people have a track record of leading the world in their response to epidemics and pandemics: The Caribbean was the first area of the world to eliminate polio and measles; Cuba became the first country in the world to achieve the elimination of Mother-to-child Transmission of HIV and Syphilis and on World AIDS Day 1 December 2017, six Caribbean territories and states joined Cuba in that achievement.

Our leaders, medical professionals at all levels, labs and all frontline workers, have acted decisively, worked unselfishly and helped keep us safe across the Caribbean.

We salute you and thank you!

CMLF’s critical role in the Region’s COVID-19 response

COVID-19 has undoubtedly changed the world; laboratories are not immune to this change.

The COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic has laid bare the critical importance of accurate, reliable and timely laboratory testing for diagnosis, patient care and management.

It took COVID-19 to teach us, perhaps, one of the most striking lessons of the pandemic: the urgent need for scaling up testing to identify those infected, to prevent further spread and reduce harm.

Through online training, the Caribbean Med Labs Foundation (CMLF) assisted countries in ensuring quality management systems for accurate and reliable COVID-19 results.

As early as March, CMLF had pinpointed the crucial role of laboratories (article here).  As it has done for more than a decade of its work on strengthening laboratory services in the Caribbean, the Foundation provided vital information for Ministries of Health, laboratories and health care providers to help guide their decisions.  This guidance addressed options for, and benefits of COVID-19 testing to identify persons infected who require treatment and for surveillance of those who may have been infected and recovered.

CMLF also emphasised that COVID-19 illustrated the urgent need for regional governments to adopt national laboratory policies, enact legislation to improve quality and resourcing of public laboratories and monitor the quality of private laboratories to ensure readiness to address public health threats.

CMLF has assisted the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) to identify COVID-19 laboratory tests and supplies.  To ensure that other critical regional health interventions continue in light of severe supply chain disruptions globally, CMLF continues to collect and share data with partners on regional HIV and Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) reagent stocks.  The goal is to ensure that HIV and STI diagnostic, treatment and care services continue during the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 and Laboratories

An opportunity for strengthening laboratories and health systems in the region.

Diagnostics and Laboratory capacity are essential but often ignored pillars of both a responsive health system and effective global health security.

The Coronavirus pandemic has, more starkly than ever before, highlighted the critical importance of accurate, reliable and timely laboratory testing for diagnosis, patient care and management and understanding the scope of viral transmission, thereby protecting national, regional and global health security. For those of us that live in the Caribbean, as we watched the COVID-19 pandemic sweep through Asia, Europe and the United States, on its way to our shores, many lessons have been highlighted – the DOs and DON’Ts of how to manage this pandemic emerged and are emerging day by day!

Read the full article.