Guyana’s First Lady and PANCAP Champion Mrs. Sandra Granger calls for health curriculum to be implemented in schools

Guyana’s First Lady and PANCAP Champion, Mrs. Sandra Granger called for a comprehensive health curriculum to be implemented in the education system at the early childhood level. Mrs. Granger delivered this charge while addressing attendees of the United Nations Population Fund’s (UNFPA) observance of World Population Day, themed “Family planning is a human right”. The event was held at the Cara Lodge Hotel, Georgetown.

“I am an advocate for teaching [family health] at the nursery level, but it does not mean that our parents must be [excluded]… Parents have a large role to play in how our children are socialised… Let us hope that the Caribbean region will come up with a comprehensive health and family life education curriculum which they can implement in all our schools, so that our children will have the much-needed education and the knowledge that they deserve… [Let us hope] that our communities [and] our parents are educated [on] how they can protect [their] children and… how they should socialise their children, boys and girls, to be responsible human beings and, hopefully, productive adults,” the First Lady said.

Mrs. Granger also highlighted the benefits of accessible family planning. “It has been estimated that if the need for modern contraception was met, there would be 70 percent less unintended pregnancies, 74 percent less unsafe abortions, [and] 25 percent less maternal deaths… There would be an increase in educational opportunities for girls and women, greater participation by women and girls in the labour force, and an increase in their earning potential,” she said.

Notwithstanding the importance of including men in the family planning process, the First Lady said that family planning gives women more control over their lives. “Our men and boys must also be educated to participate actively in family planning and to understand and accept their roles and responsibilities as fathers when children are born… Family planning empowers women and supports their right to decide when and where they will have children if they do want children. In addition, they can set goals for themselves, whether they relate to education, their career, or their well-being,” she said.

Liaison Officer at the UNFPA, Mr. Adler Bynoe delivered the World Population Message on behalf of the organisation’s Executive Director, Dr. Natalia Kanem, who pointed out that accessible family planning can only be realised through collaboration. “Family planning is not only a matter of human rights, it is also central to women’s empowerment, reducing poverty, and achieving the sustainable development… the UNFPA is fully committed to continuing to support countries’ efforts to uphold the right to plan a family. We are striving end all unmet needs for voluntary family planning in developing countries by 2030… We cannot do this alone. Governments, parliamentarians, the private sector and civil society must join forces to make it happen,” he said.

Minister within the Ministry of Public Health, Dr. Karen Cummings said that the Ministry will be doing more to educate young people about the importance of family planning. “The Ministry of Public Health has a health promotion unit that engages in integrated health promotional activities. One of the areas in which it will be placing greater emphasis will be… generating more awareness about sexual reproductive health and the importance of family planning… At the Ministry, we are cognisant that effective and informed family planning has multiple health and social benefits… Through various health promotion activities, the Ministry of Public Health is ensuring that… accurate, unbiased information, to assist in preventing unplanned pregnancies, as well as empowering young people to make educated decisions about sexual and reproductive health, is disseminated countrywide,” she said.

Panellists and teen mothers from Women Across Differences (WAD), Ms. Makeda Perune, Ms. Tishana Peters, and Ms. Adriana Chappelle were in attendance to offer their perspective on the importance of family planning.

“Being a teen mom was a real struggle and the road was very hard… I encourage young persons who are sexually active to… use family planning. [It] will benefit you to [avoid] any unplanned pregnancies. You will have the opportunity to plan your future and set your goals,” Ms. Perune said.

Ms. Peters pointed out some of the risks of ignoring the use of contraceptives while being sexually active. “The [risk] of not using family planning is that it makes you exposed… to STDs, HIV, [and] unwanted and unplanned pregnancies… If I only knew earlier about contraceptives, I would’ve been, maybe, a better young woman today… [Contraceptives] save lives,” she said.

Ms. Chappelle commented on the empowerment that family planning provides. “I thank God for putting WAD in my path because I now know the importance of family planning [as a] human right… It has empowered me in such a way that I know what I deserve as an individual… and I have the courage to stand up for it… This is my body and I have the right to plan my pregnancies,” she said.

World Population Day, observed on July 11, was introduced by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to focus attention on the urgency and importance of population issues. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the affirmation of family planning as a human right.

UNAIDS warns that progress is slowing and time is running out to reach the 2020 HIV targets

GENEVA, 18 July 2018—UNAIDS is issuing countries with a stark wake-up call. In a new report, launched today in Paris, France, at an event co-hosted with Coalition PLUS, UNAIDS warns that the global response to HIV is at a precarious point. At the halfway point to the 2020 targets, the report, Miles to go—closing gaps, breaking barriers, righting injustices, warns that the pace of progress is not matching global ambition. It calls for immediate action to put the world on course to reach critical 2020 targets.

“We are sounding the alarm,” said Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS. “Entire regions are falling behind, the huge gains we made for children are not being sustained, women are still most affected, resources are still not matching political commitments and key populations continue to be ignored. All these elements are halting progress and urgently need to be addressed head-on.”

HIV prevention crisis

Global new HIV infections have declined by just 18% in the past seven years, from 2.2 million in 2010 to 1.8 million in 2017. Although this is nearly half the number of new infections compared to the peak in 1996 (3.4 million), the decline is not quick enough to reach the target of fewer than 500 000 by 2020.

The reduction in new HIV infections has been strongest in the region most affected by HIV, eastern and southern Africa, where new HIV infections have been reduced by 30% since 2010. However, new HIV infections are rising in around 50 countries. In eastern Europe and central Asia the annual number of new HIV infections has doubled, and new HIV infections have increased by more than a quarter in the Middle East and North Africa over the past 20 years.

Treatment scale-up should not be taken for granted

Due to the impact of antiretroviral therapy roll-out, the number of AIDS-related deaths is the lowest this century (940 000), having dropped below 1 million for the first time in 2016. Yet, the current pace of decline is not fast enough to reach the 2020 target of fewer than 500 000 AIDS-related deaths.

In just one year, an additional 2.3 million people were newly accessing treatment. This is the largest annual increase to date, bringing the total number of people on treatment to 21.7 million. Almost 60% of the 36.9 million people living with HIV were on treatment in 2017, an important achievement, but to reach the 30 million target there needs to be an annual increase of 2.8 million people, and there are indications that the rate of scale-up is slowing down.

West and central Africa lagging behind

Just 26% of children and 41% of adults living with HIV had access to treatment in western and central Africa in 2017, compared to 59% of children and 66% of adults in eastern and southern Africa. Since 2010, AIDS-related deaths have fallen by 24% in western and central Africa, compared to a 42% decline in eastern and southern Africa.

Nigeria has more than half (51%) of the HIV burden in the region and there has been little progress in reducing new HIV infections in recent years. New HIV infections declined by only 5% (9000) in seven years (from 179 000 to 170 000) and only one in three people living with HIV is on treatment (33%), although HIV treatment coverage has increased from just 24% two years ago.

Progress for children has slowed

The report shows that the gains made for children are not being sustained. New HIV infections among children have declined by only 8% in the past two years, only half (52%) of all children living with HIV are getting treatment and 110 000 children died of AIDS-related illnesses in 2017. Although 80% of pregnant women living with HIV had access to antiretroviral medicines to prevent transmission of HIV to their child in 2017, an unacceptable 180 000 children acquired HIV during birth or breastfeeding—far away from the target of fewer than 40 000 by the end of 2018.

“One child becoming infected with HIV or one child dying of AIDS is one too many,” said Mr Sidibé. “Ending the AIDS epidemic is not a foregone conclusion and the world needs to heed this wake-up call and kick-start an acceleration plan to reach the targets.”

Key populations account for almost half of all new HIV infections worldwide

The report also shows that key populations are not being considered enough in HIV programming. Key populations and their sexual partners account for 47% of new HIV infections worldwide and 97% of new HIV infections in eastern Europe and central Asia, where one third of new HIV infections are among people who inject drugs.

“The right to health for all is non-negotiable,” said Mr Sidibé. “Sex workers, gay men and other men who have sex with men, prisoners, migrants, refugees and transgender people are more affected by HIV but are still being left out from HIV programmes. More investments are needed in reaching these key populations.”

Half of all sex workers in Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, South Africa and Zimbabwe are living with HIV. The risk of acquiring HIV is 13 times higher for female sex workers, 27 times higher among men who have sex with men, 23 times higher among people who inject drugs and 12 times higher for transgender women.

“Communities are echoing UNAIDS’ call,” said Vincent Pelletier, positive leader and Executive Director of Coalition PLUS. “We need universal access to adapted prevention services, and protection from discrimination. We call upon world leaders to match commitments with funding, in both donor and implementing countries.”

Stigma and discrimination persist

Discrimination by health-care workers, law enforcement, teachers, employers, parents, religious leaders and community members is preventing young people, people living with HIV and key populations from accessing HIV prevention, treatment and other sexual and reproductive health services.

Across 19 countries, one in five people living with HIV responding to surveys reported being denied health care and one in five people living with HIV avoided visiting a health facility for fear of stigma or discrimination related to their HIV status. In five of 13 countries with available data, more than 40% of people said they think that children living with HIV should not be able to attend school with children who are HIV-negative.

New agenda needed to stop violence against women

In 2017, around 58% of all new HIV infections among adults more than 15 years old were among women and 6600 young women between the ages of 15 and 24 years became infected with HIV every week. Increased vulnerability to HIV has been linked to violence. More than one in three women worldwide have experienced physical or sexual violence, often at the hands of their intimate partners.

“Inequality, a lack of empowerment and violence against women are human rights violations and are continuing to fuel new HIV infections,” said Mr Sidibé. “We must not let up in our efforts to address and root out harassment, abuse and violence, whether at home, in the community or in the workplace.”

90–90–90 can and must be achieved

There has been progress towards the 90–90–90 targets. Three quarters (75%) of all people living with HIV now know their HIV status; of the people who know their status, 79% were accessing treatment in 2017, and of the people accessing treatment, 81% had supressed viral loads.

Six countries, Botswana, Cambodia, Denmark, Eswatini, Namibia and the Netherlands, have already reached the 90–90–90 targets and seven more countries are on track. The largest gap is in the first 90; in western and central Africa, for example, only 48% of people living with HIV know their status.

A big year for the response to tuberculosis

There have been gains in treating and diagnosing HIV among people with tuberculosis (TB)—around nine out of 10 people with TB who are diagnosed with HIV are on treatment. However, TB is still the biggest killer of people living with HIV and three out of five people starting HIV treatment are not screened, tested or treated for TB. The United Nations High-Level Meeting on Tuberculosis in September 2018 is an opportunity to bolster momentum around reaching the TB/HIV targets.

The cost of inaction

Around US$ 20.6 billion was available for the AIDS response in 2017—a rise of 8% since 2016 and 80% of the 2020 target set by the United Nations General Assembly. However, there were no significant new commitments and as a result the one-year rise in resources is unlikely to continue. Achieving the 2020 targets will only be possible if investments from both donor and domestic sources increase.

Ways forward

From townships in southern Africa to remote villages in the Amazon to mega-cities in Asia, the dozens of innovations contained within the pages of the report show that collaboration between health systems and individual communities can successfully reduce stigma and discrimination and deliver services to the vast majority of the people who need them the most.

These innovative approaches continue to drive the solutions needed to achieve the 2020 targets. When combination HIV prevention—including condoms and voluntary medical male circumcision—is pursued at scale, population-level declines in new HIV infections are achieved. Oral pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is having an impact, particularly among key populations. Offering HIV testing and counselling to family members and the sexual partners of people diagnosed with HIV has significantly improved testing access.

Eastern and southern Africa has seen significant domestic and international investments coupled with strong political commitment and community engagement and is showing significant progress in achieving the 2020 targets.

“For every challenge there is a solution,” said Mr Sidibé. “It is the responsibility of political leaders, national governments and the international community to make sufficient financial investments and establish the legal and policy environments needed to bring the work of innovators to the global scale. Doing so will create the momentum needed to reach the targets by 2020.”

In 2017, an estimated:

36.9 million [31.1 million–43.9 million] people globally were living with HIV

21.7 million [19.1 million–22.6 million] people were accessing treatment

1.8 million [1.4 million–2.4 million] people became newly infected with HIV

940 000 [670 000–1.3 million] people died from AIDS-related illnesses


The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) leads and inspires the world to achieve its shared vision of zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths. UNAIDS unites the efforts of 11 UN organizations—UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP, UNDP, UNFPA, UNODC, UN Women, ILO, UNESCO, WHO and the World Bank—and works closely with global and national partners towards ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals. Learn more at and connect with us on FacebookTwitterInstagram and YouTube.

Utilizing ‘Treatment as Prevention’ can stop the spread of HIV and AIDS

Putting an end to the spread of HIV and AIDS would be rather simple, if persons simply adhered to the motto of “Test, Treat, Defeat”, which allows persons to know their status and take action, allowing health professionals to treat them with antiretroviral medication, to prevent HIV transmission to others.

Professor Clive Landis, Deputy Principal of the UWI, Cave Hill Campus spoke of the latest scientific understanding of the prevention effectiveness  of HIV treatment that results in viral suppression, to reduce the risk of sexual transmission of HIV, as he delivered an address at the Barbados
National Faith Leaders Consultation, held at the Radisson Aquatica Resort. This he referred to as,“Treatment as Prevention”.

“So treatment as prevention is that the viral load in your body is suppressed to point where you cannot detect it anymore. It is just no longer detectable.  If you were to stop your drugs, it would come back, but it is no longer detectable in any of your body fluids and it can’t be transmitted. So there is a personal benefit because AIDS is eliminated in that person and there is a public benefit as well because if you are not infectious, you certainly cannot transmit to anybody,” Professor Landis pointed out.

The evidence he said, has been borne out by numerous studies and the fact that mother-to-child transmission of HIV has been significantly reduced in Barbados.  Cuba became the first country in the world to receive validation from the World Health Organisation that it has eliminated mother-to-child transmission of HIV and late last year, six Caribbean countries joined the group of countries, successfully ending mother-to-child transmission of both HIV.

“So by suppressing the virus in a person’s body, there are really noninfectious, even to the life that’s within their womb,” Landis commented.

“So Test, Treat, Defeat is really what it is all about. We will eliminate HIV from the whole of our country, if we can provide the environment in which people feel comfortable to be tested and then they are able to access treatment and be comfortable being treated and then we will just treat our way out of this disease,” Professor Landis said.

Good Response to Faith Leaders Consultation

The Pan-Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP), with funding from the CARIFORUM 10th European Development Fund (EDF) Programme of Support for Wider Caribbean Co-operation, recently hosted the Barbados National Faith Leaders Consultation at the Radisson Aquatica Resort in Barbados.

According to the PANCAP Co-ordinating Unit, the Consultation formed part of a series of engagements with faith leaders in Barbados, under the PANCAP Justice for All programme. As such, participants included numerous faith leaders, representing national faith leaders’ networks from across Barbados.

“The action plan (included, but was not) limited to the establishment of the main goals for an inter-religious faith leaders network in Barbados with emphasis on contributing toward the end of AIDS; identification of the lessons learned for ending AIDS from faith leaders’ engagements with People Living with HIV and with other groups such as parliamentarians, youth leaders, civil society and members of church communities; challenges for developing a viable Faith Leaders Network and proposals for overcoming them; specific recommendations to achieve the goals of the inter-religious/faith leaders network and priorities and timelines for achieving the goals of the Network.”

Now it was during this Faith Leaders Consultation, that the point was made that when it comes to tackling HIV and AIDS, faith-based organisations have a pivotal role to play. Such was the suggestion made by Minister of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs, Cynthia Forde, who delivered the feature address. She was at the time speaking as the Minister responsible for People Empowerment, the co-ordination of the National AIDS Programme and Ecclesiastical Affairs.

“Your work is certainly poised to pay a pivotal role at all levels of the response, if we are to meet the agreed 90-90-90 fast track targets towards delivering an AIDS-free generation, by 2030. Officials from the National AIDS Programme have advised me that this is an achievable goal. However, to be successful, we will need all sectors of society and our partners to play their part in the response,” the Minister told faith leaders.

Minister Forde then referenced a study carried out with faith-based organisations (FBOs) in four countries – Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, St. Kitts and Nevis and St. Vincent and the Grenadines- by the Caribbean HIV&AIDS Alliance, noting that it confirms that religious leaders still have considerable influence and that many FBOs are already engaged at various levels in HIV prevention and service provision or have acknowledged their potential leadership role and are engaging in HIV prevention and care services, including working towards stigma and discrimination reduction.

However, she said, “The findings of that study highlighted the need to address issues such as moral judgements regarding populations that were most vulnerable to HIV infection, a still lingering fear of transmission via casual contact with a person living with HIV and lack of confidentiality, even in the church.”

She then added, “Based on the premise, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’, we must therefore continue to develop HIV policies and programmes within our churches and places of worship, promote ongoing education using the pulpit and all church organisations. We also have to address myths, misconceptions, gender and social-cultural norms that fuel stigma and discrimination and reduce the effectiveness of national programmes.”

The Minister also spoke of the need for church groups to be empowered to discuss sexual health and behaviours and other related issues in a much more free and open manner and she made a call for faith leaders to also target “vulnerable seniors”, in their talks on HIV and AIDS.

Participants also heard from Professor Clive Landis, Deputy Principal of the UWI, Cave Hill Campus, who spoke of the latest scientific understanding of the prevention effectiveness of HIV treatment that results in viral suppression, to reduce the risk of sexual transmission of HIV. Putting an end to the spread of HIV and AIDS would be rather simple, he said, if persons simply adhered to the motto of “Test, Treat, Defeat”, which allows persons to know their status and take action, allowing health professionals to treat them with antiretroviral medication, to prevent HIV transmission to others.

Given the response by faith leaders and the information presented, we can all agree that it was quite a productive session. Hopefully, the stated goals were reached.

Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC) Launches “Do You Dare” Campaign

The HIV response could fit into the “Truth or Dare” pretext in which participants are given the choice between answering a question truthfully or performing a “dare”.

Here are some truths. Although there have been significant advances in the HIV response in the Caribbean, particularly the downward trend in HIV prevalence in the general population, some members of our key populations (KPs) still face challenges. These groups include marginalized children and youths, sex workers, men who have sex with men, persons in prison and drug users.

Another truth, based on epidemiological evidence, there is a high HIV prevalence amongst vulnerable groups. Their vulnerability is due to a combination of factors such as high levels of stigma and discrimination; human rights abuses and laws that impede access of KPs to health care as well as various other social services.

The reality is that the way forward cannot be truth or dare, but truth and dare. Knowing the truth is not enough. “Do You Dare” to take a stand? The campaign launched by Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC), has at its core the specific objective of utilizing a range of communications strategies to challenge people, governments, key populations (KPs) and civil society organizations to be change agents.

“If we are to achieve the global community 90-90-90 goals by 2020, we will have to be bold and do things a little differently. We have to dare our target audiences to embrace and find ways to hold people accountable for some of the changes we wish to see,” said Ivan Cruickshank, CVC’s Executive Director.

He added that “the intention of “Do You Dare” is to catalyze a strong momentum at regional and national levels. I believe if these dares resonate with the right people, we will be well on our way to achieving the goals are for 90% of persons to be diagnosed,  placed on treatment and be virally suppressed.”

“Do You Dare” is aimed at ensuring that:

  • HIV responders and duty bearers are more responsive to the needs of KPs
  • 2020 commitments and best practices in increasing access among key populations more widely disseminated
  • Responders and duty bearers demonstrate increased awareness of best practices
  • Commitments are given to replicate best practices and scale up programmes and services
  • Concrete actions are taken to reduce barriers, replicate best practices and scale up services

Ivan Cruickshank, CVC – I dare civil society to continue to fight for inclusion to ensure each citizen has a right to their existence within a particular space.

Dr. Carolyn Gomes, Human Rights Advocate – I dare the governments of the region to fully fund the HIV response.

Neish McLean, Transwave Ja – I dare regional bodies to work together to allow trans persons to update gender markers on legal documents.

Jairo Rodriquez, LGBT Advocate – I dare the government to create policies that would make everyone comfortable in accessing health care.

Barbados National Faith Leaders Consultation

Thursday, 5 July 2018 (PANCAP Coordinating Unit, CARICOM Secretariat): The Pan-Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP), with funding from the CARIFORUM 10th European Development Fund (EDF) Programme of Support for Wider Caribbean Cooperation, will host the Barbados National Faith Leaders Consultation in Saint Michael Parish Barbados from 6 – 7 July 2018.

The Consultation forms part of a series of engagements with faith leaders in Barbados under the PANCAP Justice for All programme. It will facilitate the development of an action plan for advancing faith leaders’ implementation of key elements of the Justice for All programme. Participants will include 40 faith leaders representing national faith leaders’ networks from across Barbados.

The action plan will include but not limited to the establishment of the main goals for an inter-religious faith leaders network in Barbados with emphasis on contributing toward the end of AIDS; identification of the lessons learned for ending AIDS from faith leaders’ engagements with People Living with HIV and with other groups such as parliamentarians, youth leaders, civil society and members of church communities; challenges for developing a viable Faith Leaders Network and proposals for overcoming them; specific recommendations to achieve the goals of the inter-religious/faith leaders network and priorities and timelines for achieving the goals of the Network.

In an invited comment, coordinator of the consultation, Dr. Nigel Taylor, Chair, Barbados Evangelical Association, stated, “The many challenges faced by faith-based organisations (FBOs) necessitates a strategic partnership framework of cooperation with all stakeholders in the HIV prevention and response. As such, there must be a concerted effort to increase the partnership and collaboration between all the major stakeholders as we seek to put all systems in place to end AIDS by 2030”.

– 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.

  • 10th European Development Fund (EDF) Programme of Support for Wider Caribbean Cooperation

 Under the 10th (EDF) Programme of Support for Wider Caribbean Cooperation, PANCAP will strengthen coordination on human rights issues in keeping with the Justice For all Roadmap through the HIV and AIDS Thematic Task Force in CARIFORUM.


 CARIFORUM refers to the Grouping of Caribbean States which are signatories of the Georgetown Agreement establishing the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP). The ACP grouping is composed of 79 African, Caribbean and Pacific states.

CARIFORUM is the recipient of and manages the implementation of Caribbean Regional Indicative Programmes financed by the EDF and Caribbean regional programmes financed by individual Member States of the European Union. It also provides technical assistance to agencies/institutions implementing projects under these programmes.

  • European Union

The Member States of the European Union have decided to link together their know-how, resources and destinies. Together, they have built a zone of stability, democracy and sustainable development whilst maintaining cultural diversity, tolerance and individual freedoms. The European Union is committed to sharing its achievements and its values with countries and peoples beyond its borders’.

Background to the PANCAP Justice for All (JFA) Roadmap

The PANCAP Justice for All (JFA) Programme was established in September 2013 as a regional response to the UN High-Level Political Declaration (June 2011) designed to reduce AIDS-related stigma and discrimination. The objectives of the JFA Roadmap are:

  • Enhancing family life and focusing on those in need
  • Increasing access to treatment and affordable medicines
  • Reducing gender inequality including violence against women, girls and adolescents
  • Promoting prevention with special reference to sexual and reproductive health and rights including age-appropriate sexual education
  • Implementing legislative reforms for modifying AIDS-related stigma and discrimination

Burgeoning Caribbean movement to address the needs of transgender people takes HIV out of isolation

According to one study, in Jamaica quarter of adolescent transgenders (27%) are living with HIV. In Guyana eight percent of transgender people tested positive. Yet there aren’t many other numbers with which to make the case. Very few countries in the sub-region regularly monitor the HIV epidemic among the transgender community. Transgender people and their concerns–from violence to lack of access to work–have long been hidden in the region. This is changing. This year, with support from the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition and the Global Network for Trans Women, the United Caribbean Trans Network (UCTRANS) was formed. Their mission is to build the capacity of transgender organizations and those working with trans people regionally while providing technical support to advance human rights, promote sexual and reproductive health, rights and wellbeing. UNAIDS asked UCTRANS Chair, Alexus D’Marco, about the organization and how it will position the issue of HIV.

Q: Transgender organizing is still absent or at the beginning stages in some Caribbean countries. What did it take to form a regional trans-network and why was it important to do so?
A: It took us coming together as transgender persons from different Caribbean countries, discussing our issues and identifying the challenges and concerns facing trans people throughout the Caribbean. It was really a process of consultations and dialogue that brought us to this point. The main issues we are going to address are access to justice, access to education and quality of life.

Q: What’s the importance of addressing all dimensions of transgender people’s lives through your advocacy rather than focusing on HIV?
A: The thing about it is a trans person’s life is just like any other person’s life. We are human beings. HIV is just a drop in the bucket. Without having an education the only thing many transgender people can resort to is sex work which puts them at risk of contracting HIV. So the support persons in our community need is not just around HIV. Many are homeless, with no education, no family structure, no food. This is the reality we have to address.

Q: What about the challenge of sensitizing the people of the Caribbean about what it means to be transgender?
A: We are on a mission to educate, to inform and to address the real issues the trans community faces. We have to start by explaining to the region what it means to be transgender. It means your brain wants to match your body. Your body may not be what your brain is telling you are. You know you are a woman without a shadow of a doubt. That is the trans person’s mind. When people tell you who they are you must believe them. Many confuse gender identity with sexual orientation. Sexual orientation is about who you are attracted to. Gender identity is who you are. Sexual identity is who you go to bed with as opposed to gender identity which is who you go to bed as. It’s not dressing up for a show or for entertainment. It is everyday existence as a human being.

Q: What is the top priority for the United Caribbean Trans Network?
A: It’s visibility and being included in all the conversations that include human beings. Don’t just put us in conversations about transgender issues… put us in conversations about access to justice, education, national development. We are human beings and we must come from a human rights standpoint. We have to have an honest and open conversation about this community. The conversation does not start with HIV. If I have HIV and I don’t have a meal to take my pill or a roof over my head to store medication or psychological support to discuss what I am going through, we are doing [HIV] work in vain. Those are the components that make up a full person and trans people are people.

NFPB and UNFPA Sub-Regional Office Collaborate on Plans to Engage Parliamentarians in Sexual and Reproductive Health Issues

Image: The Sexual and Reproductive Health Technical Advisor of the United Nations Population Fund Sub-Regional Office for the Caribbean, Dr. Pilar de la Corte Molina (centre) met with the National Family Planning Board’s Enabling Environment and Human Rights (EEHR) Unit, represented by Director, Devon Gabourel (left) and Technical Officer, Genice Wright (right) at the NFPB’s Headquarters in Kingston. 

KINGSTON, JAMAICA – Devon Gabourel of the National Family Planning Board (NFPB) and Dr. Pilar de la Corte Molina, of the United Nations Population Fund Sub-Regional Office for the Caribbean (UNFPA) met earlier this month to explore how the agencies could collaborate to engage Parliamentarians in Jamaica on their role to advance Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly in regards to Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR). They also discussed other strategies that could be pursued to bridge legislative and policy gaps that challenge overall sexual and reproductive health outcomes for the population. Dr. Molina will present her recommendations to the NFPB’s multidisciplinary Legislation and Policy Review Committee later this month.

Health Finance and Governance Project (HFG) supporting region to develop sustainability plans for HIV response.

Image:  Representatives from USAID, the Global Fund, PAHO, UNAIDS, CDC, the Health Financing and Governance Project (HFG) and Health Policy Plus (HP+) with the Minister of Education, Hon. Nicolette Henry, and officials from the Ministries of Finance and Public Health, during a Joint Mission for Sustainability Planning in Guyana.

The USAID-funded Health Finance and Governance Project (HFG) has been supporting the governments of Barbados, Guyana, Suriname, the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago and the Dominican Republic to develop sustainability plans for their HIV response. Working closely with national counterparts, HFG has managed sustainability planning processes that are broadly inclusive and build country ownership. The plans detail strategies to continue the transition from Global Fund and PEPFAR funding. Common strategies have included social contracting of civil society organizations (CSOs) to provide services to key populations and scale up treatment and engaging the private sector in domestic resource mobilization.

HFG has implemented assessments in Barbados, Guyana, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago and the Dominican Republic to build the evidence base for sustainability planning. This process has included implementing the Sustainability Index and Dashboard (SID), conducting Health Accounts estimations of health spending and funding flows and building investment cases. It has also included conducting a supply chain study in Barbados. A template designed by HFG and reviewed by partners – including PANCAP, USAID, the Global Fund and UNAIDS – can be adapted by other countries to create roadmaps for setting and achieving sustainability milestones and defining timeframes and technical assistance needs. Importantly, the template pays explicit attention to efforts to protect human rights and access to services for key populations.

From care to cure: towards the elimination of HIV Announcing the 2018 CCAS Summit

UNAIDS is pleased to again support the Caribbean Cytometry & Analytical Society’s (CCAS) Expert Summit which will be held from August 26th to 30th, 2018 in Saint Lucia. CCAS has trained HIV professionals from 23 countries and territories across the region in the diagnosis, laboratory monitoring, treatment and care of people living with HIV.

Last year’s summit, “From Care to Cure: Shifting the HIV Paradigm”, reached beyond the technical community to share a message of hope with the people of the Caribbean. That message? We can actually end the AIDS epidemic! So it’s time the narrative about HIV, and people living with it changed.

This year the summit continues to review dramatic advances in antiretroviral therapy and the public health benefits of treatment as prevention. Learn more about the 2018 summit and how you can participate.

For more info email or on the website:

You may access social media messages and distinguished lectures from the 2017 CCAS Expert Summit on the UNAIDS Caribbean YouTube Channel and here: