Regional CSOs to benefit from PANCAP-JASL South-South Knowledge Exchange on HIV Prevention and Treatment Programmes

Thursday, 15 September 2022 (PANCAP Coordinating Unit, CARICOM Secretariat): The Pan-Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP), the mechanism that provides a structured and unified approach to the Caribbean’s response to the HIV epidemic, will facilitate a five-day South-South Knowledge Exchange event in collaboration with the Jamaica AIDS Support for Life (JASL) in Kingston, Jamaica from 19 to 23 September 2022.

The weeklong activity will allow regional stakeholders to examine the planning, implementation, and evaluation of JASL’s Prevention, Treatment, Enabling Environment and Human Rights programmes.  The initiative aims to strengthen the regional HIV response by identifying best practices from JASL’s model in HIV Management/Programming with special emphasis on Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) and other specialised treatment and care services that cater to vulnerable populations, including men who have sex with men (MSM), female sex workers and transgender persons.

The South-South Exchange is supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.  It will include key civil society organisations (CSOs) that implement HIV programmes from seven (7) countries within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), including the Commonwealth of Dominica, Guyana, Grenada, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

Kandasi Walton-Levermore, Executive Director, JASL, is delighted about the initiative, “regional participants will be exposed to the lessons learnt and the factors contributing to the successful delivery of HIV prevention and treatment services for key populations (KPs) and People Living with and affected by HIV and AIDS.” She added, “JASL will share its customised approach in service delivery to achieving an enabling environment for improved access to HIV services for all.

The exchange will also focus on the coordination and collaboration mechanisms between JASL, the Ministry of Health and Wellness (MoHW), other CSOs, the private sector and other partners in delivering comprehensive HIV services.  In addition, participants will develop country-specific action plans to enhance collaboration among participants in the South-South initiative.

JASL’s Executive Director underscored that the South-South Knowledge Exchange would be a significant step toward building capacity in HIV programme implementation to achieve the 95-95-95 Targets for ending AIDS.

– ENDS –

HELPFUL LINKS:

Global AIDS Strategy 2021–2026, End Inequalities, End AIDS

https://pancap.org/pancap-documents/global-aids-strategy-2021-2026-end-inequalities-end-aids/

Caribbean Regional Strategic Framework on HIV and AIDS (CRSF) 2019-2025

https://pancap.org/pancap-documents/caribbean-regional-strategic-framework-2019-2025/

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.

What is the Jamaica AIDS Support for Life (JASL)?

JASL’s genesis was in the late 1980s when a group of friends responded to the needs of a peer who had become infected with highly stigmatised HIV and faced discrimination in the health care system.  This act led other individuals who were facing similar challenges to the group.  Additionally, the existing government response was preventive and not targeted to include the most vulnerable groups, including persons already infected with HIV, MSM and SW.

In 1991, the organisation was first established as Jamaica AIDS Support (JAS), and was the first NGO specifically responding to HIV.  JAS was urged by the Ministry of Health to continue the work among PLHIV, MSM and SW as trust had been established through the provision of a stigma free zone in which everyone could access testing, counselling and treatment regardless of sexual orientation, gender, race, occupation, colour, class economic status or religion.

What are the Global AIDS Strategy 2021–2026 targets and commitments?

If targets and commitments in the strategy are achieved:

  • The number of people who newly acquire HIV will decrease from 1.7 million in 2019 to less than 370 000 by 2025

 

  • The number of people dying from AIDS-related illnesses will decrease from 690 000 in 2019 to less than 250 000 in 2025.

 

  • The goal of eliminating new HIV infections among children will see the number of new HIV infections drop from 150 000 in 2019 to less than 22 000 in 2025.

What are the 95-95-95 Targets for ending AIDS?

  • 95% of People Living with HIV know their HIV status;
  • 95% of people who know their status on treatment; and
  • 95% of people on treatment with suppressed viral loads.

Global Fund Stakeholders to discuss Challenges affecting Expansion of HIV, TB and Malaria Responses at Regional Dialogue

Friday, 9 September 2022 (PANCAP Coordinating Unit, CARICOM Secretariat): The Pan-Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP), the mechanism that provides a structured and unified approach to the Caribbean’s response to the HIV epidemic, will facilitate a “Joint Regional Dialogue among Key Stakeholders and Partners” of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM) multi-country grant in Port-of-Spain, Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, 13 – 15 September 2022.

The Dialogue is a result of a collaboration with the Global Fund,  the Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) platform and the consortium of Sub-Recipients consisting of the Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP), the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC) and the Centro de Orientación e Investigación Nacional (COIN) of the multi-country grant.

Over eighty (80) participants are expected to attend, including Caribbean Country Coordinating Mechanism (CCM) members, who represent communities affected by the three (3) diseases, as well as key and vulnerable populations (Belize, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica and Suriname), OECS Regional Coordinating Mechanism (RCM) members, Caribbean networks of key populations participating in the multi-country grant, National AIDS Programme (NAP) Managers, Civil Society Organisation (CSO) representatives implementing grant activities, technical assistance providers/agencies, International Development Partners including the Global Fund, USAID/PEPFAR, PAHO and UNAIDS.

According to Dr. Shellon Bovell, Project Coordinator, Global Fund (GF), CARICOM Secretariat, the Dialogue will maximise learning, coordination and synergies among recipients of the multi-country grant.

She further explained that this would allow stakeholders to discuss priority issues, including the effective use of resources and added value for beneficiaries of the grant, while sustaining the gains in HIV programming.

Specifically, the Dialogue will seek to improve coordination and collaboration between the regional GF project, national GF grants, national programmes, civil society and communities in their responses to HIV, Tuberculosis (TB) and malaria through sharing experiences, strategies and best practices.

“We will also seek to identify challenges affecting the expansion of the response to HIV, TB and malaria in the Caribbean and to improve the understanding of the Global Fund processes by all stakeholders, including communities and beneficiary countries that will have a significant impact on our Region”, stated Dr. Bovell.

She further explained that national programmes and CSOs would share their experiences and lessons learned from involvement and engagement in Global Fund-related processes in the Caribbean.

The overarching objective is to foster more synergies among stakeholders of the multi-country grant to fulfil the vision of an AIDS-free Latin America and the Caribbean.

Contact: 
Timothy Austin
Senior Project Officer, Communications
PANCAP Coordinating Unit
CARICOM Secretariat
Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana

EDITOR’S NOTES

The consortium of Sub-Recipients consisting of the Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP), the Caribbean Coalition of Vulnerable Communities (CVC) and the Centro de Orientación e Investigación Nacional (COIN), submitted a funding request to the Global Fund in August 2018 to provide sustainable prevention, treatment and care services for key populations in the Caribbean region.  In response to this request, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM) approved a budget of US$6,500,000 for implementing a three-year Project (1 October 2019 – 30 September 2022).

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM) reaffirmed its commitment to strengthening the voices of communities and civil society in Global Fund processes, investing in a third phase of the Community Engagement Strategic Initiative (CE SI), former Community, Rights and Gender Strategic Initiative (CRG SI) for the period 2021-2023.

The primary objective of the CE SI is to strengthen the engagement of civil society and communities in the Global Fund and related national processes.  Engagement of community and civil society actors at all stages in the grant life cycle is critical in designing, developing and implementing effective responses to the three diseases and systems strengthening, ensuring that Global Fund investments evolve as responsive to those most impacted.

The CE SI works through the following three components:

  • Technical Assistance (TA) to support communities and civil society groups to engage in national processes linked to Global Fund investments.
  • Long-term strengthening of HIV, TB and malaria organisations and networks and engagement funds for women and girls, and
  • Regional Civil Society Platforms for Communication and Coordination.

HELPFUL LINKS:

Global AIDS Strategy 2021–2026, End Inequalities, End AIDS
https://pancap.org/pancap-documents/global-aids-strategy-2021-2026-end-inequalities-end-aids/

Caribbean Regional Strategic Framework on HIV and AIDS (CRSF) 2019-2025
https://pancap.org/pancap-documents/caribbean-regional-strategic-framework-2019-2025/

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.

What are the Global AIDS Strategy 2021–2026 targets and commitments?

If targets and commitments in the strategy are achieved:

  • The number of people who newly acquire HIV will decrease from 1.7 million in 2019 to less than 370 000 by 2025
  • The number of people dying from AIDS-related illnesses will decrease from 690 000 in 2019 to less than 250 000 in 2025.
  • The goal of eliminating new HIV infections among children will see the number of new HIV infections drop from 150 000 in 2019 to less than 22 000 in 2025.

Millions of lives at risk as progress against HIV and AIDS falters

The Global AIDS Update 2022, released in July, shows that during the last two years of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and other global crises, progress against the HIV pandemic has faltered, resources have shrunk, and millions of lives are at risk.

The report titled “In Danger” was launched ahead of the International AIDS Conference in Montreal, Canada.

On average, the AIDS pandemic took a life every minute in 2021. There were 650 000 AIDS-related deaths last year despite the availability of effective HIV treatment and tools to prevent, detect, and treat opportunistic infections.

The Caribbean 

Regarding the Caribbean, there were an estimated 330 000 people living with HIV last year. According to the report, from 2010 to 2021, AIDS-related deaths in the Region declined by 50 percent.

There were 5700 deaths last year, and new HIV infections decreased by 28 percent since 2010. An estimated 14 000 people contracted HIV during 2021, translating into 270 new HIV infections every week in the Caribbean.

“While the Caribbean has not had the increase in new infections experienced in other regions, the rate of decline is far too slow,” explained Luisa Cabal, UNAIDS Director of the Latin America and Caribbean Regional Support Team.

“Thousands of avoidable HIV infections every year are making it ever harder and more expensive to ensure People Living with HIV have access to lifesaving treatment and that the targets to end the AIDS pandemic by 2030 are reached,” Cabal added.

The report recommends that countries in the Region urgently prioritize combination HIV prevention. This includes behavioural interventions like comprehensive sexuality education as well as moving to large-scale implementation of prevention projects reaching vulnerable populations at elevated risk of HIV so that innovations such as HIV self-testing and pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP become more widely available.

PrEP is daily medicine taken by an HIV-negative person who is at substantial risk to prevent contracting the virus (View the PANCAP PrEP Knowledge Suite).

The data indicated that these prevention strategies are especially important for vulnerable groups like adolescent girls and young women as well as key populations such as gay men and other men who have sex with men, sex workers, transgender people and people who use drugs.

One-third or 34 percent of new HIV infections last year were among Caribbean young people aged 15 – 24. There were twice as many infections among young women (23 percent) as compared to their male peers (11 percent).

The report notes that during the disruptions of the last few years, key populations in the Region have been particularly affected.

As of the end of 2021, an estimated 84 percent of People Living with HIV in the Caribbean were aware of their status. Eighty-three percent of all diagnosed people were on treatment. Of these, 87 percent were virally suppressed last year. The target for 2025 is 95 percent for each of these result areas.

At present, the Caribbean is below the global averages for both HIV treatment coverage and viral suppression.

The report recommends that Caribbean countries implement policies that remove structural barriers to HIV services and repeal laws and policies that criminalize people living with and at risk of HIV.

Finally, deliberate action is required to ensure sufficient and sustainable funding for the Caribbean HIV response.

Image: Ms Luisa Cabal, UNAIDS Director Latin America and Caribbean Regional Support Team

PANCAP-PAHO Launch PrEP Knowledge Suite

The PANCAP Coordinating Unit and the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) have developed a Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) knowledge suite available on the PANCAP website.  The suite comprises digital posters for Social Media, Information, Education and Communication (IEC) materials, including digital brochures, clinical guidelines for PrEP and nPeP, PrEP registry, monitoring tools and capacity-building materials, including training videos.

The resource was developed to support countries in setting up services for PrEP and nPeP with emphasis on key populations.  The package will allow for the standardisation of the services in the Region and data collection to support region-wide analysis for evidence-based decision-making.

Mr Timothy Austin, Senior Project Officer, Communications, PANCAP Coordinating Unit, explained that the IEC materials were developed based on input and feedback from a virtual focus group earlier this year.  The focus group consisted of civil society representatives, key populations, technical staff from the National AIDS Programme Secretariat in Guyana, and technical staff from PANCAP and PAHO.  He highlighted that the social media visuals and digital brochures contain essential PrEP information and detailed explanations on who should use PrEP, its effectiveness and its side effects.

Ms Sandra Jones, Advisor, HIV/STI, TB & Viral Hepatitis, PAHO/WHO – Subregional Program Coordination, Caribbean, emphasised that NAPS and CSOs can utilise the IEC materials to create demand for PrEP.  She explained that the clinical guidelines and other tools would support the delivery of a comprehensive package of services that will facilitate a combination approach to HIV prevention.

Technical guidelines available in the suite also offer comprehensive information on procedures for initiating PrEP (first visit), a checklist for counselling clients and a list of medications that interact with PrEP, among others.

The PrEP Suite forms part of the initiatives under the current Global Fund project, with the technical guidance and support of PAHO.  The overarching goal is to provide the necessary guidance and tools to support countries establishing and strengthening services for key populations.

PrEP providers to benefit from PANCAP-JASL Capacity Building

PANCAP, with technical support from the Jamaica AIDS Support for Life (JASL), will facilitate a “Training of Trainers on the use of Oral Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) for the prevention of HIV, 16 – 18 August 2022 in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.

The capacity-building activity is designed for health care providers working at the community and facility level to equip them with knowledge about PrEP as an additional tool for prevention.  The course will sharpen their skills in negotiating tailored prevention plans for their respective beneficiaries.

In addition, the training activity will provide basic PrEP information and employ participatory activities to allow participants to effectively promote/support PrEP as another prevention strategy for some of their clients.  For medical practitioners, the training will provide guidance on how to administer, monitor and manage PrEP.

The training is supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and facilitated by JASL trainers with capacities across clinical aspects of PrEP services and administration, understanding referrals and linkages approach to PrEP, communication, messaging, monitoring and evaluation.

The capacity building is happening several weeks after the launch of the PANCAP PrEP Knowledge Suite, developed with technical support from PAHO for use by National AIDS Programmes, civil society organisations, and other stakeholders involved in HIV programme implementation for capacity building and community health promotion activities on PrEP.

The Financial Intermediary Fund: A New Model That Duplicates The Global Fund

On 17 May 2022, the World Bank released a White Paper with a proposal to create a Financial Intermediary Fund (FIF) for Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness, and Response. For some, the idea of creating a new global fund for pandemics was only a matter of time, not unexpected and even anticipated given that the world has lost trillions of dollars due to the COVID-19 pandemic and no-one would want to go through a similar situation in the near or intermediate future.

Two background papers were prepared by the World Bank and the World Health Organization (WHO) for endorsement by the Group of Twenty (G20) Joint Finance & Health Task Force in March 2022. The documents are PPR Financing Modalities and an Analysis of Pandemic Preparedness and Response (PPR) architecture, financing needs, gaps and mechanisms.

The pandemic is not over. While the world’s predominant Omicron variant and its different sublineages do not seem to be as devastating in terms of deaths, it continues to cause tens of thousands of infections almost daily around the world. This raises the burden of disease and causes labor disabilities, flight delays or cancellations, supply chain interruptions, and other serious disruptions to society. Furthermore, the high inflation that is currently being experienced worldwide and the risk of a global recession have not only been exacerbated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine but are symptomatic of economic phenomena already being driven by the impact of the pandemic.

The Global Fund was too slow to act

Last year, when the Global Fund Board discussed its new 2023-2028 Strategy, several of us sent letters to Board members and made our position known: that the Global Fund should expand its mandate beyond the three diseases so it could explicitly incorporate prevention, preparedness and response to COVID-19 and other potential pandemics. Given that we saw the risk that a new type of Global Fund would have to be created for that purpose, we advocated for these functions to be incorporated into the work that is already being successfully performed by the Global Fund.

Unfortunately, the expansion of the mandate was not explicitly authorized.

Yet if nothing else, COVID-19 has shown us that the world was ill-prepared to deal with a global pandemic of this nature and that existing modalities were not fit for purpose and would need to be severely overhauled to deal with any such future threats.

At that time, and to some extent still remaining, there was a lot of controversy regarding the placement of pandemic preparedness and response (PPR) within the new Global Fund Strategy, with many fearing that its inclusion would detract from attention to HIV, TB and malaria. This has undoubtedly impacted on the decision not to given PPR the same weight as the three diseases and health system strengthening in the new Global Fund Strategy 2023-2028.

It is hardly surprising, therefore, that someone else has stepped in to take up the challenge of addressing global prevention, preparedness and response to future pandemics.

Upping the competition for scarce financial resources

The World Bank’s new proposal to create the FIF has started to compete for the same international resources for global health. However, while the Global Fund model is inspired by a bottom-up approach to develop and create responses through partnerships, the World Bank model appears to adopt a top-down approach, in that a group of intellectuals have generated a model whereby donors define the flow of resources with decision-makers at the top deciding how to help poor people at the base. This is best described as a paternalistic or colonialist model and is a step backwards.

The model proposed by the World Bank seems to be inspired by organizational models from the last century. In this model, only the member states have a voice and a vote: the donors are at the top of the pyramid and the countries, which are called beneficiaries, are at the bottom. Under the proposed FIF, the implementers would be the World Bank itself, WHO, other United Nations (UN) agencies, the Regional Development Banks (RDBs), and a potential space for others defined as “etcetera” in the original White Paper.

How do the two models differ?

We can see the main components of both models below.

Table 1. A comparison of the Global Fund and World Bank implementing models

Global FundFinancial Intermediary Fund
Model at InceptionBottom-upTop-down
Decision-makingThrough partnershipsPyramidal decision making,top to bottom
Country defined as Country Coordinating Mechanisms (CCM) comprising governments plus relevant stakeholdersMember-States (governments)
ImplementersEligible developing countriesRDBs, UN Agencies, World Bank, and WHO
BeneficiariesPeople and communities from eligible countriesAll developing countries
Civil society, communities, private sector and private foundationsRole as partners from CCMs to the Board levelsCivil society is considered to be an observer and participate as such, while the private sector is still undefined
AllocationsGrants to eligible countriesGrants and potentially loans and/or bonds to all interested developing countries
FundingReplenishment cycles every three yearsReplenishment processes are being considered
Disease focusHIV, TB, malaria, health system strengthening, and human rights barriers associated with the three diseases, plus COVID-19 -related responsesCOVID-19 and other future pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response

Governance and accountability issues

Of course, the elements listed in this table are not the only components that can be compared, there are other elements that should also be considered. For example, the track record in transparency: the mechanisms for allocating Global Fund grants are explicit and based on epidemiology and the capacity to pay indicators of each country and the country proposal is prepared and endorsed not only by the government but also by all non-governmental entities represented on the country’s CCM. In the case of the World Bank, as is the case with almost all multilateral organizations created after World War II (e.g., the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and other Bretton Woods institutions, WHO and most UN agencies), its mandate is to negotiate only with member states. And the results of those negotiations are only made public once they are completed and the agreement has been signed. Transparency was not exactly one of the most cherished values of the last century, as it is in the current 21st century.

From another perspective, the Global Fund itself is a financial intermediary fund which temporarily receives resources from donors that are finally assigned to implementers in eligible countries. Creating a new FIF would be an unnecessary bureaucratic duplication that is based on a model that is less inclusive and potentially less impactful for countries and communities.

The reaction from stakeholders

Following the publication of the White Paper, interested parties were offered the opportunity to respond with written feedback to be received by 1 June 2022. Many of these comments from interested stakeholders – including civil society, academics, and other non-government representatives or entities – expressed concern that the Global Fund was not included in the proposed process. As a reaction to these comments, the newspaper Politico has reported that the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and the Global Fund have now been included as potential FIF fund recipients.

Communities, civil society and non-state actors are excluded

But is this the solution? That the Global Fund becomes a FIF recipient? Competing for FIF resources with the World Bank itself, not to mention against RDBs, other UN agencies, and WHO? Perhaps the World Bank is still not very clear about how it wants to operate the FIF: it has called on civil society and non-state actors to listen to their ideas and potentially invite them as observers, but not to sit down at the table together to make decisions jointly, at the same level as member states. This is because – according to the top-down model – they are not equal and there are hierarchies to be observed.

The fact that the World Bank is still unclear on exactly how to operate the FIF, and assuming that its creation is inevitable and will possibly be endorsed by the majority of the G20 countries, does not mean that we cannot continue to question its existence. The RDBs, UN agencies, World Bank and WHO cannot and should not be implementers, as set out in the FIF White Paper. The implementers must be the countries themselves, whether it be through governments, the private sector, civil society, and/or communities based in those countries. The role of WHO and other agencies in the UN system should be one of technical collaboration and technical partnership, but not as implementers or financial intermediaries; on the other hand, both the RDBs and the World Bank have been and must continue to be financial intermediaries.

The implications for the Global Fund

While the World Bank clearly defines exactly how the FIF will operate, one thing is obvious and must happen. The Global Fund Board, its respective Committees’ members and the Secretariat need to continue the discussion on how the Global Fund should prepare and adapt/reform itself to continue to be the most relevant actor in the global financing of prevention, preparedness and response to future and existing pandemics.

Through experience gained over the past twenty years, the Global Fund has amply demonstrated how to respond to pandemics: not only what works best but how countries can be motivated to co-invest with domestic resources so that the best possible results can be obtained. Its partnership model includes not just three diseases of pandemic dimensions, but also health and community systems strengthening within the context of a human rights and gender framework. Additionally, during these past two years the Global Fund has also shown how to respond swiftly and decisively to a fourth pandemic, allocating more than $4 billion to help developing countries fight COVID-19 through the COVID-19 Response Mechanism (C19RM) ¾ see Article 4 in this issue of the GFO, on the Office of the Inspector General‘s Audit of C19RM.

The Global Fund has shown flexibility in the past and demonstrated its ability to be nimble, and if its internal decisions impose barriers to be more effective, in doing so it reforms itself and adapts to new realities. This is reflected in differentiated funding modalities, policies for countries facing challenging operating environments or for ineligible countries in crisis, etc. In 2010, faced with a critical situation for the successful continuation of the financing of the Global Fund, its Board approved the creation of a comprehensive reform working group, whose proposed and subsequently approved plan allowed the Global Fund to quickly adapt to a new financial reality and continue developing what it knew how to do best: invest to save millions of lives.

*Jorge Saavedra is a medical doctor from Mexico, with masters’ degrees in Public Health and Health Policy & Management. He has been the Director General of Mexico’s National HIV Program and is currently President of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) Mexico and Executive Director of the AHF Global Public Health Institute at the University of Miami. Has been a member of the Global Fund’s Latin American and Caribbean Constituency and is still a member of the Developing Country NGO Constituency on the Board.

He would like to thank Guilherme Ferrari Faviero for his edits and suggestions.

PANCAP South-South Learning Exchange to boost PrEP and HIV self-testing implementation in the Region

Tuesday, 21 June 2022 (PANCAP Coordinating Unit, CARICOM Secretariat): The Pan-Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP), the mechanism that provides a structured and unified approach to the Caribbean’s response to the HIV epidemic, will facilitate a South-South knowledge exchange event in Georgetown, Guyana from 27-29 June 2022 in collaboration with Ministry of Health-Guyana and the National AIDS Programme Secretariat (NAPS).  The knowledge exchange is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and will focus on Guyana’s experience implementing Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and HIV self-testing (HIVST).

The countries participating in the learning exchange event are Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Jamaica and the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.  Eight (8) persons from the four (4) countries will participate, including National AIDS Programme (NAP) Managers and Clinical Care Coordinators, HIV clinicians and civil society organisation (CSO) representatives who work closely with the national programme in the implementation of PrEP, HIVST and other aspects of the HIV response.

Participants will interact with representatives of the Ministry of Health, clinical, CSO representatives and beneficiaries of the Guyana HIV programme.

According to Dr Shanti Singh-Anthony, Coordinator, Knowledge Management, PANCAP, “participants will experience firsthand how the Ministry of Health, National AIDS Programme has coordinated and collaborated with CSOs, the private sector, and other stakeholders in delivering comprehensive HIV services in the community and to key populations (KPs), including implementing a PrEP programme and HIVST.

She also explained that site visits would be conducted to public, private and community clinics, where participants would have the opportunity to interact with clinic staff.  “This will allow participants to understand how the PrEP service delivery and HIVST are organised and delivered, the number and skill set of the clinical team, and other resources available for supporting service delivery,” stated Dr Singh-Anthony.

In addition, participants will interact with the beneficiaries of the clinics, particularly KPs.  There will also be opportunities for participants to accompany the NAP and CSO teams to community outreaches to identify and recruit KPs for HIV prevention, HIVST and PrEP.

Why Guyana?

Dr Singh-Anthony explained that Guyana was selected because of the progress made by the NAPS in PrEP and HIVST implementation and the wealth of experience to be shared with the Region.  Guyana is one of the first countries in the Region to have achieved the First 90.  At the end of 2020, 94% of People Living with HIV knew their HIV status.    Guyana has also made significant progress in delivering PrEP to KPs;  the NAPS has developed PrEP guidelines, trained clinicians, and developed systems.  PrEP is available at fifteen (15) public, private and CSO locations.

HIVST is in the pilot phase, and Guyana’s testing algorithm was validated.  HIVST kits can be accessed from four (4) public, private and CSO locations.  In addition, the NAPS has plans to scale up and make more sites accessible.

The South-South knowledge exchange is part of PANCAP’s overarching strategy to enhance the skills of National AIDS programme technical teams and CSO representatives in implementing PrEP and HIVST.

– ENDS –

Contact:

Timothy Austin

Senior Project Officer, Communications

PANCAP Coordinating Unit

CARICOM Secretariat

Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana

Email:      taustin.consultant@caricom.org

Tel: (592) 222-0001-75, Ext. 3409  | Visit www.PANCAP.org

EDITOR’S NOTES

What is Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP)?

Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) is the use of antiretroviral (ARV) drugs by persons without HIV infection to prevent the acquisition of HIV.  It can be taken daily or on-demand, also known as event-driven PrEP.

What is HIV self-testing?

HIV self-testing allows people to take an HIV test and get their results in their home or other private location using an HIV self-testing kit.   It offers a way to make testing discreet, comfortable, and empowering.

HELPFUL LINKS:

Global AIDS Strategy 2021–2026, End Inequalities, End AIDS

https://pancap.org/pancap-documents/global-aids-strategy-2021-2026-end-inequalities-end-aids/

Caribbean Regional Strategic Framework on HIV and AIDS (CRSF) 2019-2025

https://pancap.org/pancap-documents/caribbean-regional-strategic-framework-2019-2025/

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.

What are the Global AIDS Strategy 2021–2026 targets and commitments?

If targets and commitments in the strategy are achieved:

  • The number of people who newly acquire HIV will decrease from 1.7 million in 2019 to less than 370 000 by 2025
  • The number of people dying from AIDS-related illnesses will decrease from 690 000 in 2019 to less than 250 000 in 2025.
  • The goal of eliminating new HIV infections among children will see the number of new HIV infections drop from 150 000 in 2019 to less than 22 000 in 2025.

PANCAP Collaborates with Callen-Lorde to strengthen PrEP Services in the Region

Under the Multi-country Global Fund (GF) Grant Project for the Caribbean, three (3) additional countries, Antigua and Barbuda, Belize and Guyana, have advanced with the implementation of Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP).  Technical support for the advancement of these countries to implement this high impact prevention service was provided by the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) and PANCAP.  Barbados, a recipient under the grant, has provided support to the three (3) countries by transferring knowledge and experience over the years.  Approximately seven (7) countries in the Caribbean are currently implementing PrEP as opposed to two (Barbados and Bahamas) in 2019, all at different levels of implementation.

Under the current Global Fund project, with the technical guidance and support of PAHO, a comprehensive PrEP guidance package was developed to support countries in initiating PrEP services.  The purpose of the package is to facilitate the standardization of the services, data collection, and monitoring across the Region.  In addition, the package includes generic clinical guidelines (based on recommendations from World Health Organisation – WHO guidelines) for PrEP and nPeP for key populations, clinical intake forms, social media products, brochures, PrEP registration, monitoring and training tools.

To further strengthen PrEP implementation in the Region and with the technical support of PAHO, PANCAP is collaborating with Callen-Lorde, a Global leader in Key Population health care in the United States.  The partnership will support in-country capacity building to generate demand for PrEP and skills critical to providing quality PrEP services to key populations.

Due to the pandemic, onsite, in-person capacity building in New York was not possible.  However, the collaboration will move forward with country visits by experts from Callen -Lorde to strengthen the national services based on the specific needs and concerns of the Member States mentioned above.

In May, a virtual planning session was held with the team from Callen-Lorde, PAHO, PANCAP and national teams from the individual countries to determine the level of implementation and technical expertise critical to strengthening PrEP services.

Mr Collin Kirton, Officer-in-Charge, PANCAP, lauded the collaboration, “This initiative with Callen-Lorde is building on ongoing work which commenced with the support of PAHO in 2018.  Callen-Lorde brings many years of programme implementation and clinical experience to this initiative and our Region.  I am pleased that Callen-Lorde will support your technical assistance needs and urge you to clearly define these so that the technical assistance is intentional, targeted and will be most useful in advancing PrEP programmes in our Region”.

Caribbean Regional Network of People Living with HIV and AIDS (CRN+) undergoes organisational restructuring

The Caribbean Regional Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS (CRN+) facilitated a virtual election for new directors to serve on its board.  The election was held on 28 January 2022.

Mr William Moultrie III was elected the new Chair, Mr Ricky Pascoe, Vice-Chair; Ms Renatta Langlais, Secretary, Ms Christel Charles, Treasurer, Mr Marten Colom, Assistant Secretary, Mr Kenny White, Assistant Treasurer and Ms Diana Weekes, Board Member.

With the installation of a new Board of Directors, CRN+ plans to focus on advocacy for People Living with HIV (PLHIV) across the Region.  The mandate of the new board includes increasing representation for PLHIV and further establishing CRN+ as “the authentic voice” for and on behalf of PLHIV.

Mr Moultrie III expressed his satisfaction with the new board, stating, “now is the time to change how we operate.  We need to act more, and we need to be inclusive; we need to unite PLHIV.  These are the critical keys for our success.”

More Territories ready to Invest in Social Contracting

Several Caribbean countries have graduated to middle-income status over the past ten (10) years, and more are transitioning out of eligibility for external funding from traditional donors. This has increased the burden on countries to fund and manage their priority health programmes without external support. Further, the economic impact of COVID-19 has put increased burden on countries where the expertise of HIV programmes has been leveraged but without budgetary increases.

Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and Community-Based Organisations (CBOs) have been critical players in their national HIV responses, providing expertise for efficient service delivery and deeper penetration into general, key and vulnerable populations. External donors have traditionally supported these non-government entities; hence CSOs will be significantly impacted by the decrease in funding. This risk of losing the gains made over the past decades would further isolate the key and vulnerable communities.

Social contracting has been proposed for several years as a viable option to sustain the critical work by CSOs and CBOs in their country’s HIV response.

In early 2021 the CARICOM Secretariat, via PANCAP, advanced this mechanism by developing a tool kit to guide countries on the process should they consider social contracting a viable option. Later in 2021, PANCAP examined seven (7) countries to determine if they already had a funding mechanism to support non-government players or were interested in establishing or strengthening social contracting as a financing option. The latter would be a mechanism by which governments would finance programmes, interventions and other activities implemented by CSOs to respond to HIV and AIDS through a public tender.

Barbados, Guyana and Jamaica have already commenced implementation or have decided to pilot social contracting. However, other countries were identified as being near ready to advance should 1) the appropriate advocacy be provided and 2) domestic funding be identified. Antigua and Barbuda was one such country.

The AIDS Secretariat, Antigua and Barbuda, convened a workshop in March with critical CSOs to increase their understanding of social contracting and its benefits. This was followed by individual in-person organisation meetings to explore their capacity and interest in receiving public resources. Sessions were then held with senior government gatekeepers, including the Ministry of Health Wellness and Environment and the Ministry of Finance, to identify procurement processes, a potential package of services, and gaps in targets.

Weeks of hard work culminated on 31 March 2022, when discussions were held between CARICOM-PANCAP and the Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment in Antigua and Barbuda on social contracting. Honourable Molwyn Morgorson Joseph, Minister of Health, Wellness and the Environment, indicated his strong support for the tremendous work of the National AIDS Secretariat and the work of CSOs in reaching key populations. He also expressed his confidence in social contracting being a valuable tool to support Antigua and Barbuda’s national response.

Minister Joseph intends to meet with CSO partners to recognise their work and has reached out to CARICOM for additional support in developing the critical programme documents and government submissions to start a pilot in the next fiscal year, 2023-2024. Antigua and Barbuda would be the first country in the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) to implement social contracting.

Image: Office of the Minister of Health, Wellness and the Environment, Antigua and Barbuda (left to right): Ms Ena Henry, Permanent Secretary, Ms Sandra McLeish PANCAP Consultant; Honourable Molwyn Morgorson Joseph, Minister of Health, Wellness and the Environment; Dr Rhonda Sealy-Thomas, Chief Medical Officer and Ms Delcora Williams, AIDS Programme Manager.