Recommendation Regarding the Use of Cloth Face Coverings, Especially in Areas of Significant Community-Based Transmission

CDC continues to study the spread and effects of the novel coronavirus across the United States.  We now know from recent studies that a significant portion of individuals with coronavirus lack symptoms (“asymptomatic”) and that even those who eventually develop symptoms (“pre-symptomatic”) can transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms.  This means that the virus can spread between people interacting in close proximity—for example, speaking, coughing, or sneezing—even if those people are not exhibiting symptoms.  In light of this new evidence, CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.

It is critical to emphasize that maintaining 6-feet social distancing remains important to slowing the spread of the virus.  CDC is additionally advising the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others.  Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure.

The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators.  Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance.

This recommendation complements and does not replace the President’s Coronavirus Guidelines for America, 30 Days to Slow the Spreadexternal icon, which remains the cornerstone of our national effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.  CDC will make additional recommendations as evidence regarding appropriate public health measures continues to develop.

READ – How to make your own face-covering – DIY-cloth-face-covering-instructions

Recent Studies:

  • Rothe C, Schunk M, Sothmann P, et al. Transmission of 2019-nCoV Infection from an Asymptomatic Contact in Germany. The New England journal of medicine. 2020;382(10):970-971.
  • Zou L, Ruan F, Huang M, et al. SARS-CoV-2 Viral Load in Upper Respiratory Specimens of Infected Patients. The New England journal of medicine. 2020;382(12):1177-1179.
  • Pan X, Chen D, Xia Y, et al. Asymptomatic cases in a family cluster with SARS-CoV-2 infection. The Lancet Infectious diseases. 2020.
  • Bai Y, Yao L, Wei T, et al. Presumed Asymptomatic Carrier Transmission of COVID-19. Jama. 2020.
  • Kimball A HK, Arons M, et al. Asymptomatic and Presymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 Infections in Residents of a Long-Term Care Skilled Nursing Facility — King County, Washington, March 2020. MMWR Morbidity and mortality weekly report. 2020; ePub: 27 March 2020.
  • Wei WE LZ, Chiew CJ, Yong SE, Toh MP, Lee VJ. Presymptomatic Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 — Singapore, January 23–March 16, 2020. MMWR Morbidity and mortality weekly report. 2020;ePub: 1 April 2020.
  • Li R, Pei S, Chen B, et al. Substantial undocumented infection facilitates the rapid dissemination of novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV2). Science (New York, NY). 2020.

Director’s Message – March 2020

As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads around the world, it is becoming clear that persons with underlying conditions, and also the elderly, are at higher risk of becoming severely ill. People Living with HIV (PLHIV) could prove more vulnerable to this new virus, given that their immune system is already compromised.

This is indeed a challenging time for us in the region. Our health systems are already faced with numerous challenges, such as the availability of resources and the lack of human resource capacity. However, almost all countries in the region have reported imported cases and some level of local transmission. Countries have put measures in place to prevent widespread transmission and contain the spread. We can only hope for the best.

“COVID-19 will undoubtedly change how we do things over the coming months.”

As we look towards the 90-90-90 Targets, as well as other national and regional targets, we must recognise that this pandemic could knock us off track and severely impede the realisation of these goals. COVID-19 will undoubtedly change how we do things over the coming months, and we must recognise the impact which this could have on PLHIV.

Continuation of HIV services

With measures such as social distancing and the closure and suspension of services, HIV prevention and care services can be disrupted. There can be disruption to the available testing and counselling services. How we offer these services must be revisited and should be considered, particularly within the context of social distancing. We must be able to find practical ways to ensure that persons are still tested and that they are still offered the required standard of care.  Persons may encounter reduced access to preventative care, and even more troubling, those persons who are already linked to care may experience a disruption in getting to their care facilities to obtain their medication and to access laboratory testing. Laboratories may also begin to prioritise COVID-19 testing, and this could lead to delayed HIV testing, which can impact the care of PLHIV. These can impede our move towards the 90-90-90 Targets.

Applying lessons learnt from the HIV response

Notwithstanding these uncertainties, the HIV and AIDS response has given us valuable lessons which we can apply to the COVID-19 pandemic.  We remember the early years of HIV and AIDS, when there was widespread fear about the virus, and also the move to social isolation for those who were infected and most at risk. Today, we are witnessing the same level of fear with COVID-19 and the issues surrounding isolation and social distancing. In their response to HIV, healthcare providers have had significant experience dealing with specific social issues, such as stigma and discrimination, and so successful strategies which have been used in the HIV response can be applied to diminish the fear, stigma and discrimination around COVID-19.

PANCAP pledges to continue to work with our partners to do everything within our capacity to raise our voices for the rights of PLHIV and to share information, guidance and good practices to protect each other.

I, therefore, ask that we all stay safe and that we take all the necessary measures to protect ourselves and those around us.

Japan Secures $476 million Contribution to the Global Fund

TOKYO – The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria welcomes the Japanese Diet’s passage of the fiscal 2019 supplementary budget and the fiscal 2020 budget, which includes Japan’s contribution of US$476.4 million to the Global Fund in 2020. This is its largest annual contribution to the Global Fund, signalling Japan’s strong leadership in global health, at a time when the world is fighting COVID-19.

The latest contribution is part of Japan’s Sixth Replenishment pledge to the Global Fund. In 2019, Japan announced a pledge of US$840 million to the Global Fund’s Sixth replenishment. Suzuki Keisuke Japan’s State Minister for Foreign Affairs, who led the Japanese delegation and reaffirmed Japan’s commitment at the replenishment conference in Lyon, France in October 2019 said, “Ending three epidemics by 2030 and bringing about successful transition of implementing countries are responsibility not only of the Global Fund but also of the entire global community. The Global Fund has applied an innovative method of co-financing requirement under the principle of country ownership. This is a key element to sustainability and successful transition and should be strengthened in the coming three years.”

Japan supports a new Global Fund initiative that provides flexibility to countries to use up to 5% of approved grants to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and to ensure continuity of lifesaving programs to fight HIV, TB and malaria. Japan’s leadership in championing Universal Health Coverage foresees a world secure from old as well as emerging pandemics.

“As the world battles the COVID-19 pandemic, it is wonderful to support the Global Fund, which dedicated to helping the vulnerable populations such as people living with HIV, TB and Malaria.” said Honorary Ichiro Aisawa, a member of the House of Representatives in the Diet and Co-Chair of Friends of the Global Fund, Japan Diet Task Force. “Those of us in Japan are pleased that we can contribute to the Global Fund’s effort to fight these diseases while working to strengthen health systems in a way that advances health for all.”

“At this critical time in global health, Japan continues to lead the way in efforts to achieve Universal Health Coverage and promote global health security,” said Peter Sands, Executive Director of the Global Fund. “We are tremendously grateful to the people of Japan and to Prime Minister Abe for this unwavering support.”

Japan has been a strong supporter of the Global Fund from the beginning. Japan introduced infectious diseases to the agenda of the G8 Kyushu-Okinawa Summit in 2000, which paved the way for the Global Fund’s establishment in 2002. The country is Global Fund’s fifth-largest contributor. With support from Japan and other partners, the Global Fund partnership has saved more than 32 million lives around the world.

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5 Lessons for Communicating About Coronavirus

The coronavirus pandemic has put the business of risk communication front and center. Every day, it seems, we are getting mixed messages from our leaders, messages that differ in their tone and content depending on who is talking.

In a situation full of unknowns, as with the early days of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa five years ago, sometimes communication is all we have. Good communication lets people know what they should do, how they can protect themselves and others and helps them balance their fears with concrete information they can use.

Here are some communication lessons to keep in mind as the coronavirus interrupts life as we know it. So much has already changed, with the closure of schools, restaurants and gyms, many workers being asked to stay away from the office, the cancellation of major life celebrations such as weddings and graduations and directives to keep our distance from one another. What is key is that we focus on how to help one another navigate the way forward.

  1. Build trust: People need information from sources with expertise and they need to hear from trusted public health experts at regular intervals. If incorrect information is shared, experts need to correct the record quickly to ensure that trust is maintained. And when too much time passes between communications, people tend to fill the void with inaccurate information from unreliable sources. Be honest about what you know – and don’t know – in a crisis.
  2. Have one set of messages: All spokespeople must be on the same page. This is crucial so that people know exactly what to do to reduce the spread of the virus. Otherwise, people make up their own minds about how to behave – which won’t slow the spread of disease.
  3. Counter myths and misinformation: Ignoring rumors and hoping that they dissipate on their own is a poor course of action, especially in a crisis. Create a system to dispel myths and correct the record by sharing the clear, accurate messages that experts have agreed on.
  4. Promote action: In an unprecedented crisis, some people just don’t know what to do and why to do it. Being anxious right now is completely normal, but we need to balance that with the ability to act to prevent paralysis. Giving them concrete things to do calms anxiety and promotes a restored sense of control. We’ve already seen some people change social norms, such as avoiding hugs and handshakes upon greeting. Our trusted leaders need to role model this behavior and talk about what else people can do to protect themselves such as vigorous handwashing, avoiding public events and settings and keeping your distance from others, especially older people who are particularly at risk for complications.
  5. Be empathetic: We are all in this together and we need communication that reflects this. The unknowns are scary, but helping people understand that they need to take action for the greater good can help foster community.

For more information on the coronavirus:

Compass

CDC

WHO

International Women’s Day 2020 – “I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights”

Recognising the Role of Women in our society: Let us all be equal.

International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated annually on 8 March. This year, the theme is: “I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights”. The theme is aligned with the United Nations’ Women’s new multigenerational campaign, Generation Equality, which marks the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.

International Women’s Day is a day set aside to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women’s equality.
In the Caribbean, women play an important role in community building, nurturing families, national and regional development, inter alia.

Women live very progressive lives in some parts of the world. Their lives have, however, not been without certain struggles. In other parts of the world, they continue to struggle for equality and remain oppressed, and face specific issues, such as domestic abuse, gender-based violence, and the lack of access to education, jobs and health care.

Women account for more than half the number of People Living with HIV worldwide. Young women (10-24 years old) are twice as likely to acquire HIV as young men of the same age. HIV disproportionately affects women and adolescent girls because of the vulnerabilities created by unequal cultural, social and economic status.

As we celebrate IWD let us, therefore, reflect on the women in our lives: our teachers, our doctors, our nurses, our grandmothers, our mothers, our wives, our sisters, our aunts, our daughters, our nieces, our friends, and recognise the important role that they have been playing to make the world a better place for all of us.

PANCAP recognises the importance of women in our society and their struggle for an equal world.  We support their development and will work to ensure that the rights of women are addressed and advanced, particularly in areas related to HIV and AIDS, sexual and reproductive health and gender-based violence.

PANCAP, therefore, salutes all women on this their very special day.

Helpful links:

UN Women’s International Women’s Day 2020 web page:
https://www.unwomen.org/en/news/in-focus/international-womens-day

International Women’s Day 2020 theme— “I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights”
https://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2019/12/announcer-international-womens-day-2020-theme

A leader to be emulated

As I reflect on Dereck Anthony Springer, professional, colleague and former manager, this saying vividly comes to mind:

Inspiration is sometimes needed to explain what cannot be explained”.

Stigma and discrimination in any form is inexplicable and Dereck’s fight to end it is nothing less than inspiring.

Dereck excited. Dereck stimulated. Dereck inspired. These are merely selected snapshots of his attributes.    I say a snapshot for I am unqualified to provide more, given the rich tapestry that is woven into Dereck Anthony Springer. But even if I were to try, I would not be able to capture more within the stipulated parameters of this medium.

So how and why did he stimulate and how did he excite? A peek at his character traits provides an understanding. Dereck is an Administrator par excellence who poured himself into establishing effective systems for dealing with the regional response to the HIV and AIDS epidemic.

When he took over as Director, he was undaunted by the state of play with respect to the uncertainty of the necessary resources to effectively sustain the response. His resoluteness, combined with his decisiveness, meticulousness, creativity and discipline, are his awesome traits. Passionate about the Partnership’s mission, he was scrupulous and unyielding in meeting deadlines. The intensity and honesty of the consultations with partners and the respect he demonstrated for their views, contributed in no small measure to the consolidation of the partnership in which all stakeholders had a voice in decision making. This was the essence by which he forged the bonds through agreements on the Caribbean Regional Strategic Frameworks, relentless endeavours at resource mobilisation and his passion to place the elimination of stigma and discrimination at the centre of PANCAP’s mission.

Dereck was self-assured and selfless. He undertook to complete whatever was started. In this regard, I recall vividly his work on the stigma and discrimination project proposal, which eventually resulted in the award of funding used for the Justice for All Programme. I remember also his faithfulness to continue the outreach to People Living with HIV and AIDS, through the provision of food and other items to the Food Bank of the National AIDS programme in Guyana and in the latter years, sometimes carrying a significant proportion of the cost of doing so.

His selfless service made him an exemplar among his peers and a person worthy of emulation. His was an undiluted commitment to achieving excellence.  Dedication to work, family, friends and colleagues is a part of who he is.  Never forgetting important occasions such as Valentine’s Day, Christmas and Mother’s Day. People matter to Dereck.

I could think of no fitting way to end this tribute to Dereck but by referring to the late Dr Myles Munroe’s statement in his book,  Purpose and Power of Authority: “True authority is not about having total control by “lording” it over others but about using the gifts you have been given to serve others”.

Dereck has and continues to use his gifts to serve. In the process, he has stimulated. He has inspired, and we who have had the privilege to know him are fortunate.  I salute you Dereck!  A great new chapter!  

Leadership with a deep sense of Humanity 

I have known Dereck for more than 25 years. We worked together at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) in the early 1990s and then with the Guyana HIV response. In 2016, I joined PANCAP and was privileged to see Dereck in action as he led the Regional response. All that has been said about his leadership attributes is spot on – he is organised, results-driven, strategic, has an eye for detail, builds relationships, nurtured the Partnership and the list of accolades goes on.  However, I am convinced that Dereck’s success in leadership is founded on his deep sense of humanity i.e. the need to reduce the suffering of the less fortunate, making every effort to leave no one behind and ensuring that there is equity in HIV and health care services in the Caribbean.

Dereck’s people-centred approach to leadership, his genuineness in leading from the heart and his empathetic leadership, have made a significant impact on the lives of many people as he worked for an AIDS-Free Caribbean. Confucius, the great Chinese philosopher, said that “to become a leader, you must first become a human being.” Dereck is indeed a great human being and a great leader!

He served People Living with HIV, mentored and nurtured many young persons in the Region, and relentlessly pursued better lives for the vulnerable. He has changed lives in the most meaningful and impactful way. Dereck often shares that, “as Director of PANCAP, you have to live this work every moment, every hour, every day.” He served well.  He was consultative and inclusive, through his transparent and accountable approach. He instilled trust and confidence in the Partnership and he owned and communicated, at every opportunity, his vision for an AIDS-free Caribbean. Mahatma Ghandi said, “the best way to find yourself, is to lose yourself in service to others.” Dereck lost and found himself in service to others. He served!

I thank Dereck for his service to the people of the Region. I thank Dereck for leaving the Partnership stronger than ever, more relevant than ever and more poised than ever to end AIDS in the Caribbean.  In honouring his legacy, it is imperative that we continue to serve our Caribbean people with the same level of distinction as Dereck.

Best wishes, Dereck, as you embark on this new and exciting chapter!

Dereck, Director Emeritus and his passion— Justice for All

From my first engagement with Dereck after he was appointed Director in September 2013, I instinctively knew that he was someone special. My continuous association with him over the period of his tenure has proven that original instinct was ‘spot on’.

It is fitting that the theme of this tribute, “A man of the time for the time” has been organised by his adoring PANCAP staff.  It is an apt description of Dereck. It echoes the sentiments of the entire Partnership that he is the creative leader, the fearless advocate for change and the stickler for “on time” action and “on time” deliverables. He is a man filled with passion to succeed, to champion the cause of the marginalized groups, to inspire the youth, to consolidate a Partnership of diverse communities around the theme, “Justice for All”.

I am aware of his strength of character, his ever willingness to confront the status quo, never backing down from the mission, “not leaving anyone behind”. But his passionate and resolute advocacy were always accompanied by thorough preparation, commitment to facts, impeccable logic and persuasive articulation.

Dereck recognises that if the Caribbean were to achieve the goal of ending AIDS by 2030, attention must be paid to affirming access to those most affected, most prominent among them, the LGBTQ population. It still is not a popular stand among important quarters of our Caribbean Community but it is the correct one. And in this regard as in so many other instances, Dereck has stood his ground. In so doing, he brought on board the parliamentarians, the faith leaders, the National AIDS Programme Managers, Civil society and youth to the table. This is a true example of functional cooperation that facilitates a “more community for all”.

Dereck, a thinker outside the box is highly regarded by Heads of Government, Ministers of Government, the Private sector, civil society, other regional and international partners. He has represented PANCAP and the Region with distinction and deserves every accolade. Let us not lose the talents of this gifted and remarkable human being. What about the title PANCAP Director Emeritus!

Director’s message – February 2020

Today I say goodbye to the Partnership. It was indeed a privilege to serve this dynamic Partnership over the last nine years, six and a half as Director. My wish when I took the reins as Director was that I would leave the Partnership better than I found it. Your many tributes over the last six months suggest that I have done so. Together we are now stronger and more resilient.

I am deeply grateful to my dedicated staff for their unwavering support to me and the Partnership. The staff believe in our mission, and although few, every day they demonstrate an unrivalled passion and commitment to serve the people of the Caribbean.  No task is ever too great for the staff of the PANCAP Coordinating Unit. They gave me the strength to embrace each day with gratitude, enthusiasm and humility. I owe our success to them.

I thank the Secretary-General of CARICOM for affording me the opportunity to serve the community and the wider Caribbean.  I extend a special thank you to the Deputy Secretary-General for helping me to navigate many minefields and her willingness to always give me an audience, to listen and provide guidance and support.  I thank my supervisor, Dr Douglas Slater for his confidence and for giving me the freedom to provide the leadership required for fulfilling our mandate and advancing the Partnership. A special thank you to the heads of departments and staff of the CARICOM Secretariat for their guidance and support.

I was inspired by Chancellor John Edward Greene, who mentored and supported me while modelling bold leadership and finesse while engaging with the political leadership in the Caribbean. I sincerely thank him.

Professor Peter Figueroa was unwavering in his support to me and the Partnership. I thank him for being a source of strength and encouragement.

I express sincere gratitude to our International Development Partners; The Global Fund and PEPFAR-USAID-CDC, PAHO, UNAIDS, UNFPA, UNDP, UNICEF and others and the key players in the Partnership, including the Lead Head for Human Resource, Health and HIV, Board and PACC members, regional partners, Ministers, National AIDS Programme Managers, Chief Medical Officers, Permanent Secretaries, youth, civil society, key populations leaders, faith leaders, parliamentarians, academia, media and others, for investing in PANCAP and for your overwhelming support over the last six and a half years.

I wish you all success and look forward to a stronger Partnership under the leadership of our new Director, Dr Rosmond Adams.

New PANCAP Director Appointed

Wednesday 26 February 2020 (PANCAP Coordinating Unit, CARICOM Secretariat): The Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP) welcomes the appointment of Dr Rosmond Adams as the new Director effective 2 March 2020.

 A Vincentian by birth, Dr Adams is a Medical Doctor by training and holds Master of Science degrees in both Public Health and Bioethics. He is a public health specialist with more than ten years of experience in the health sector both at the national and regional levels in the areas of surveillance, communicable diseases including HIV, emergency response and health security.

Dr Adams began his public health career as the Coordinator of the Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) programme in the Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. He then served as the National Epidemiologist where his work focused on strengthening public health surveillance and strategic information to guide health policy, programmes and action.

In his previous post, he served as the Head of Health Information, Communicable Diseases and Emergency Response at the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) where he led the development, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the Caribbean Regional Health Security Strategy as a common strategic framework for the CARPHA Member States to strengthen their capacity to manage and respond to emerging disease threats and other public health emergencies.

Dr Adams serves on numerous national, regional and international public health advisory committees, including the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Coordinating Mechanism (GCM) on NCDs.  Asked about his immediate priority, the Director emphasised that the sustainability of the region’s HIV response is paramount.  “The HIV and AIDS epidemic is a threat to Regional Health Security considering that our productive population is being impacted,” stated Dr Adams, “I am optimistic that the region can end AIDS, but a lot of work must be done and the gains made so far must be sustained whilst ensuring that we scale up our response and renew our commitment to this goal”.

Dr Adams succeeds Mr Dereck Springer whose tenure ends on 28 February 2020.

 -ENDS –

What is PANCAP?

PANCAP is a Caribbean regional partnership of governments, regional civil society organisations, regional institutions and organisations, bilateral and multilateral agencies and contributing donor partners which was established on 14 February 2001. PANCAP provides a structured and unified approach to the Caribbean’s response to the HIV epidemic, coordinates the response through the Caribbean Regional Strategic Framework on HIV and AIDS to maximise efficient use of resources and increase impact, mobilises resources and build capacity of partners.

Contact:

Timothy Austin
Senior Project Officer, Communications
PANCAP Coordinating Unit
CARICOM Secretariat
Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana
Email:      taustin.consultant@caricom.org
Tel: (592) 222-0001-06, Ext. 3409  | Visit www.PANCAP.org

Helpful links:

History of PANCAP
https://pancap.org/who-we-are/about-pancap/history-of-pancap/

PANCAP’s achievements
https://pancap.org/who-we-are/about-pancap/achievements/

PANCAP’s Executive Board
https://pancap.org/who-we-are/governance-bodies/executive-board/