Global Fund launches search for Inspector General

10 August 2020

GENEVA – The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has launched a search for its next Inspector General.

A seven-member nomination committee will help the Board of the Global Fund select the next Inspector General. The Board welcomes all candidates with proven skills in leadership and strategic oversight, and from broad and diverse backgrounds.

Board Chair Donald Kaberuka said an independent, well-resourced and transparent Office of the Inspector General (OIG) is more essential than ever for the success of the Global Fund as the world responds to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Global Fund is committed to the highest standards of accountability,” Kaberuka said. “As we help countries defeat COVID-19 and mitigate its impact on HIV, TB and malaria, it is essential to maintain the confidence of our donors and partners and the trust of the communities. Years of hard-won gains could be erased, and millions of lives among the most vulnerable communities are at risk.”

The OIG is an independent yet integral part of the Global Fund. Through audits, investigations and consultancy work, the OIG provides the Global Fund with independent and objective assurance over the design and effectiveness of controls in place to manage the key risks impacting the Global Fund’s programs and operations. The OIG reports on all its activities in the interest of transparency and accountability. The results of its audits and investigations are published on the Global Fund website.

Current Inspector General Mouhamadou Diagne informed the Board earlier this year that he was stepping down to take the position of vice-president of integrity for the World Bank Group.

During his more than five years as Inspector General, Diagne has led a 50-member team of audit and investigation professionals with expertise in risk management, internal controls and governance. The OIG implements a strategic and proactive approach to preventing fraud and misuse of funds, as recommended by the Board and its Audit and Finance Committee.

The Global Fund, the largest multilateral investor in grants for health systems, has saved more than 32 million lives and helped cut HIV, TB and malaria deaths by roughly half, disbursing US$45 billion to more than 100 countries. However, the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to reverse the extraordinary gains made by the Global Fund in the fight against the three diseases.

The Global Fund has reacted decisively to the emergence of COVID-19, quickly making available up to US$1 billion to support countries as they respond to the pandemic, adapt their HIV, TB and malaria programs, and reinforce their already overstretched health systems.

The nomination committee, with the support of an executive search firm, expects to interview the strongest candidates and to recommend a final candidate to the Board for appointment by November 2020. The Global Fund is working with the firm Egon Zehnder to assist with the search for an Inspector General. For more information on the position, qualifications, and requirements go to https://appointments.egonzehnder.com.

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Le Fonds Mondial se met en quête d’un Inspecteur général

10 août 2020

GENÈVE – Le Fonds mondial de lutte contre le sida, la tuberculose et le paludisme s’est mis en quête de son prochain Inspecteur général.

Un comité de nomination composé de sept membres aidera le Conseil d’administration du Fonds mondial à sélectionner le prochain Inspecteur général. Tous les candidats possédant des compétences avérées en leadership et en suivi stratégique sont invités à se manifester, quel que soit l’horizon dont ils sont issus.

Selon le président du Conseil d’administration Donald Kaberuka, le Fonds mondial a plus que jamais besoin d’un Bureau de l’Inspecteur général qui soit indépendant, transparent et doté de ressources suffisantes pour mener à bien sa mission, au moment où le monde entier riposte à la pandémie de COVID-19.

« Le Fonds mondial s’engage à respecter les normes de responsabilité les plus strictes », déclare M. Kaberuka. « Au moment où nous aidons les pays à lutter contre le COVID-19 et à en atténuer les effets sur le VIH, la tuberculose et le paludisme, il est impératif de préserver la confiance de nos donateurs, de nos partenaires et des communautés. Des années d’avancées obtenues de haute lutte pourraient être anéanties et des millions de vies au sein des communautés les plus vulnérables sont exposées au risque. »

Le Bureau de l’Inspecteur général est une entité indépendante du Fonds mondial, mais qui en fait néanmoins partie intégrante. Au travers d’audits, d’enquêtes et d’activités de consultance, il fournit au Fonds mondial une assurance indépendante et objective sur la conception et l’efficacité des contrôles mis en place afin de gérer les principaux risques qui menacent les programmes et les activités du Fonds mondial. Le Bureau de l’Inspecteur général rend compte de toutes ses activités dans un souci de transparence et de responsabilité. Les résultats de ses audits et enquêtes sont publiés sur le site web du Fonds mondial.

En début d’année, l’actuel Inspecteur général Mouhamadou Diagne a informé le Conseil d’administration qu’il allait quitter ses fonctions afin de prendre la vice-présidence Intégrité du Groupe de la Banque mondiale.

Pendant plus de cinq années à la tête du Bureau de l’Inspecteur général, M. Diagne a dirigé une équipe de 50 auditeurs et enquêteurs, spécialistes de la gestion des risques, des contrôles internes et de la gouvernance. Le Bureau de l’Inspecteur général adopte une démarche stratégique et volontariste en matière de prévention des fraudes et des détournements de fonds, conformément aux recommandations du Conseil d’administration et de son Comité d’audit et des finances.

Premier investisseur multilatéral en faveur des systèmes de santé au travers de subventions, le Fonds mondial a sauvé plus de 32 millions de vies et contribué à réduire de près de moitié les décès dus au VIH, à la tuberculose et au paludisme, décaissant 45 milliards de dollars US à plus de cent pays. Cependant, la pandémie de COVID-19 menace d’inverser les progrès extraordinaires enregistrés par le Fonds mondial face aux trois maladies.

Le Fonds mondial a fermement réagi à l’émergence du COVID-19 et a rapidement mis à disposition un milliard de dollars US afin d’aider les pays à lutter contre la pandémie, adapter leurs programmes de riposte au VIH, à la tuberculose et au paludisme, et renforcer leurs systèmes de santé déjà débordés.

Avec le concours d’une agence de recrutement de cadres, le Comité de nomination s’entretiendra avec les meilleurs candidats et espère recommander un nom au Conseil d’administration au plus tard en novembre 2020. À ces fins, il a fait appel à l’agence Egon Zehnder. Pour de plus amples informations sur le poste, les qualifications et les compétences requises, rendez-vous sur https://appointments.egonzehnder.com.

UNDP provides nutritional support to HIV+, gay community due to COVID-19 measures

Image: Mr Jairo Valverde, UNDP’s Resident Representative, hands over food items to Dr Rhonda Moore, Director of the NAPS and Mr Joel Simpson, Manager Director of SASOD

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on Monday said it has provided $5.6 million worth of food items to make available nutritional support to Persons Living with HIV (PLHIV) and members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender plus (LGBT+) community in Guyana.

“PLHIV and LGBT+ persons are among the most vulnerable and marginalized in any society. At the time of COVID-19 and its mandatory containment measures, the challenges facing these groups are further exacerbated. Given their overrepresentation in the informal labour market, they are faced with increased food insecurity and livelihood challenges,” the UNDP said in a statement.

The National AIDS Programme Secretariat (NAPS) and Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) are partnering with UNDP to ensure that much-needed relief is delivered to individuals and households from key population groups in Regions 3, 4, 5 and 6.

The NAPS will also pair the delivery of food items with the distribution of Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) to PLHIV to ensure that persons are still accessing and following their treatment while at the same time boosting and maintaining or supporting a strong immune system.

While receiving the food items, Director of the NAPS, Dr. Rhonda Moore, noted that UNDP’s support is part of a wider initiative to address food insecurity for members of the PLHIV key populations. In expressing appreciation, she noted that NAPS is partnering with several Civil Society Organizations to reach persons across Guyana and UNDP’s support will specifically target families as against individuals, especially where key population members are expected to contribute to their households.

Managing Director of SASOD, Mr Joel Simpson, noted that UNDP was one of the first international partners to respond to the needs of the LGBT+ community by supporting a socio-economic needs assessment of the LGBT+ population. The findings from that study were shared with key partners and would help to support fundraising efforts to respond to the impact of COVID-19.

Resident Representative, Mr Jairo Valverde, noted that UNDP is very happy to support vulnerable groups, who are affected disproportionately, as this is key to the United Nations mandate of leaving no one behind and reaching the furthest behind first.

Message from Dr Rosmond Adams, Director, PANCAP – July 2020

The current Coronavirus pandemic has the potential to disrupt health services. An effective HIV response requires continuous service delivery in areas such as prevention, treatment and laboratory services. Moreover, HIV care and treatment services are dependent on community action to reach those at risk and to support those currently living with HIV to ensure that they are reached and linked to or are retained in care.

The Caribbean Regional Strategic Framework (CRSF) 2019 – 2025 provides essential guidelines that build on the already illustrious achievements of a Partnership deemed by UNAIDS to be an international best practice. Most appropriate, it’s a vision of a Caribbean free of AIDS and new HIV infections, in which all people are happier, healthier, productive, safe and respected.  It is complemented by a mission to stimulate the critical role of country programmes that empower Caribbean people to fulfil their potential and live happy, healthy, peaceful lives.

Disruptions from COVID-19 can delay or slow implementation of the CRSF as the blueprint for ending AIDS. However, COVID-19 presents us with an opportunity not to be missed. COVID-19 is highlighting critical areas for actions, especially issues such as inequalities, stigma and discrimination and the need to increase domestic funding for the HIV response.

The CRSF 2019 – 2025 highlights priority areas that go hand-in-hand with the COVID-19 response. These priority areas can be advanced during the pandemic. The response to COVID-19 and HIV require bold political and technical leadership to ensure that there is an effective response. Indeed, this is the first priority area of the CRSF 2019 – 2025. We need bold leadership now more than ever. While we are calling for such a response to get over the pandemic, it will be strategic to make a unified call for HIV and other health-related issues. Bold leadership requires taking action when and where needed and to ensure that the HIV response is fully supported.

HIV programmes require strengthening in many places. Prevention services have been weakened over the years. Other areas such as treatment and testing were set back due to the challenges of the pandemic. It is probably the ideal time for national programmes to integrate HIV into primary care so that services can be accessed more widely, making it accessible to clients.

Finally, as resources are mobilized to respond to COVID-19, it is critically important that we do not forget about HIV and that resources are also mobilized to support and sustain the HIV response.

While the CRSF was written before the COVID-19 pandemic, the priority areas are even more critical now. They serve as a guide for us to move forward and for us to examine the essential question: how do we advance the HIV response during COVID-19?

Guyanese author launches COVID-19 children’s book

Guyanese author Ashley Anthony has launched a new children’s book on COVID-19 titled “Lia and Ellie talk about Coronavirus”.

Ashley is currently a sophomore student at Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, USA, studying Biomedical Engineering and the History of Science, Public Health and Medicine.

The book was launched at the recently held PANCAP Youth Town Hall Meeting July 2020 and is available for free download on PANCAP.org.

Discussing her inspiration for writing the book with the Editor of the PANCAP Newsletter, she stated “I wrote this book as a final project for one of my classes last semester.  COVID-19 has been difficult on all of us, but it can be particularly challenging for children, especially if they don’t understand what’s happening. Having a discussion about COVID-19 can be difficult, but it is my hope that this book makes those conversations a little easier”.

Ashley is an avid writer with numerous published blogs and articles, most notably she wrote a weekly column in the Guyana Times on issues related to Global Warming, Adolescent Health and Rights, LGBT rights and the importance of valuing the contributions of youth.  She has also published a Science-Fiction book, “Mysterious Association and the VirtuGems”.

In addition, Ashley is a guest writer for the Yale Daily News and President of the Yale Boola Magazine.

Click here to read “Lia and Ellie talk about Coronavirus” on PANCAP.org.

Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition is the recipient of the Robert Carr Research Award

To be named as one of the 2020 winners of the prestigious Robert Carr Research Award is an incredible recognition of the work of the team at Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC).

It demonstrates the critical role communities, and key populations can play in policy and research. It also validates the importance of collaboration between community groups and Academia. Such partnerships can only help to better serve the groups most affected by HIV and advance the regional HIV response.

The award is even more significant, given that it honours one of CVC’s founders, whose vision was for national programmes to have the relevant data to better understand the needs of our communities and design meaningful and targeted interventions.

The research, for which the award was presented will certainly provide important baseline data against which the success of any future interventions can be adequately measured.

Continue reading “Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition is the recipient of the Robert Carr Research Award”

CRN+ implementing strategies to support People Living with HIV during COVID-19

As COVID-19 continues to affect the Region, the Caribbean Regional Network of Persons Living with HIV and AIDS (CRN+) has collaborated with the UNAIDS Caribbean Sub-regional Office and PANCAP to address the challenges and advocate for People Living with HIV (PLHIV).

COVID-19 has severely affected CRN+, its country networks and partners. The organisation is particularly concerned about the lasting impact of COVID-19 on the Region and delayed projects intended to provide critical services for PLHIV. The delays have also affected proposed collaborations with National AIDS Programmes to address PLHIV at country-level.

Regular access to essential care and treatment for PLHIV has been challenged as health facilities have answered the call to respond to COVID-19.  Establishment and maintenance of alternative models for delivery of healthcare and medication for PLHIV must continue.

CRN+ has developed advocacy, communication and capacity building strategies to ensure the network of PLHIV organisations in the Region have the information and technical support needed to protect the health, wellbeing and rights of PLHIV at country-level.  CRN+ is receiving technical support from the UNAIDS Caribbean Sub-regional Office and PANCAP for this initiative.

With the development and implementation of these strategies, CRN+ intends to strengthen access for PLHIV to healthcare and human rights advocacy. The organisation will also seek to address alternative models for delivery of healthcare and medication by utilising a strategy titled – “How do we continue to work from a distance”.

The strategy would include social media messages and other approaches to reach PLHIV communities with limited or no Internet access through traditional means of communication such as newspapers, TV and radio.

There will be a particular focus on women and girls, which will encompass collaboration with the International Community of Women Living with HIV (ICW) Caribbean.  The approach will involve the provision of technical support for Women Living with HIV, adolescent girls and young women; work has commenced with the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana ICW Groups.

CRN+ will continue to advocate for alternative models for healthcare and access to medication including appointment spacing, multi-month medication filling, courier delivery or uplifting medication at HIV Network or CSOs.

Editor’s note: The Caribbean Regional Network of People Living with HIV and AIDS (CRN+) is the regional umbrella organisation with a mandate of advocating for and on behalf of PLHIV. As a full and equal partner in the collaborative fight against HIV and AIDS, CRN+ is driven by PLHIV, making a meaningful difference to their lives. For more information visit www.crnplus.com

UNAIDS report on the AIDS epidemic shows that 2020 targets will not be met in the Caribbean

KINGSTON, 10 July 2020—A new report by UNAIDS shows that despite individual country successes, overall progress in the Caribbean to expand access to HIV services has slowed. Because of this, HIV targets set for 2020 will not be reached. The report, Seizing the moment, urges countries to act with greater resolve to reach those still left behind.

Caribbean 2019 data

There were an estimated 330,000 People Living with HIV (PLHIV) in the region at the end of 2019. Overall Caribbean adult HIV prevalence was 1.1%.

In 2019 77% of PLHIV in the Caribbean knew their status. This compares to the worldwide average of 81%. Eighty-one percent (81%) of diagnosed Caribbean people were on treatment last year. Eighty percent (80%) of those on antiretroviral therapy were virally suppressed. The global average was significantly higher at 88%.

Some countries have achieved elements of the 90–90–90 targets (90% of PLHIV aware of their HIV status, 90% of diagnosed people on antiretroviral treatment and 90% of those on treatment virally suppressed). Barbados has reached the target for testing while Guyana has exceeded it with 94% of PLHIV diagnosed. Haiti has gotten 98% of diagnosed people on treatment. Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago have achieved viral suppression among at least 90% of PLHIV who are on treatment.

“This shows that within the region there is the capacity to deploy the people, policies and programmes to end AIDS,” said UNAIDS Caribbean Sub-regional Office Director, Dr James Guwani. He was speaking at a virtual launch event hosted by UNAIDS Caribbean.

Last year there were 6,900 AIDS-related deaths in the region. Deaths due to AIDS decreased by 37% since 2010. Total antiretroviral treatment coverage for the region was 63%–71% for women and 56% for men.

New HIV infections decreased by 29% in the region since 2010. One-third of new HIV infections in the Caribbean in 2019 were among young people ages 15 – 24. Males ages 15 – 49 accounted for 57% of new infections.

“Year after year the data tell the story of Caribbean men’s inadequate access to HIV services. It is time for a comprehensive strategy to meet men where they are, increase demand and adapt service delivery to meet their needs,” Dr Guwani said.

Chair of the Spouses of Caribbean Leaders Action Network (SCLAN), Kim Simplis Barrow encouraged the region to increase access to education and sexual and reproductive health services for young people.

Great strides continue to be made in the Caribbean towards the Elimination of Mother-to-child HIV transmission, with seven countries and territories achieving World Health Organization revalidation. Mother-to-child HIV transmission reduced by nearly half since 2010.

Social inequalities and exclusion are key barriers

Sixty per cent of new infections in the region were among members of key population communities and their sexual partners in 2019. This includes 26% among men who have sex with men, 6% among sex workers, 5% among transgender people and 3% among people who use drugs.

“Access to care in most of our countries is hindered by several factors including criminalisation of same-sex relationships, hostile communities, homophobic discrimination, violence internal stigma, and limited health education,” said Dr Rosmond Adams, Director of the Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP).

Prejudice against PLHIV is still commonplace. The most recent data show that while discriminatory attitudes towards PLHIV are declining consistently in some countries like Belize and Guyana, they are rebounding in others.

“We have to engage people consistently around ending discrimination. We must also improve accountability and redress mechanisms when people’s rights are violated,” Dr Guwani said.

The COVID-19 pandemic could seriously disrupt the AIDS response

UNAIDS is urging countries to increase investments in both diseases. The 2020 Global AIDS Update notes that even before COVID-19, Caribbean state health systems were struggling to cover programmes traditionally funded by international donors, including HIV prevention and key population-focused initiatives.

Between 2010 and 2019 there was a 30% decline in disbursements by the Global Fund and a 19% decline in investments by the United States Government. HIV resource availability from domestic sources increased by 38% from 2010 to 2019. At present funding is 42% short of the level needed to effectively respond to HIV in the region during 2020.

Caribbean Regional Network of People Living with HIV (CRN+) Vice-Chair, Renatta Langlais, pointed to the strain COVID-19 placed on community organizations. She said despite funding cuts, they are being forced to do more work to serve clients whose incomes and healthcare access have been impacted by the COVID-19 response.

Executive Director of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), Dr Joy St. John, urged health authorities to adopt measures to assure the health of people living with HIV and those with non-communicable diseases.

“Continuous monitoring and re-evaluation of considerations for vulnerable populations at risk from COVID-19 are critical, as the demographics for COVID-19 are quickly changing,” she said.

CONTACT

UNAIDS Caribbean | Cedriann Martin | martinc@unaids.org

Remarks by Dr Rosmond Adams, Director, PANCAP on the occasion of the UNAIDS Global AIDS Report 2020 launch

It gives me great pleasure to present these brief remarks on next steps on behalf of the Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP) at this virtual launch of the UNAIDS Global AIDS Update 2020.

As COVID-19 rapidly spreads, the global HIV community is increasingly concerned about the potential impact of COVID-19 on the 37.9 million People Living with HIV globally. Indeed, the Caribbean Region is aware of the potential threat that COVID-19 will have on advancing progress towards ending AIDS in the region.

This report comes at an important time when we are faced with so many uncertainties in this very vulnerable corner of the globe. In addition to COVID-19, the region is faced by slow economic growth, which will present a challenge for financing and sustaining national and regional HIV/AIDS response. Additionally, other health sector challenges such as the rising burden of non-communicable diseases, the impact of climate change on health and the ever-looming threat from natural disasters are just a few examples.

The theme of this year’s report is, “Seizing the Moment: Tackling entrenched inequalities to end epidemics”. As we continue to maneuver the challenges of COVID-19, this theme is very fitting for us to look for the opportunities that the pandemic has presented and to seize the moment to accelerate action in filling gaps that exist in the regional response to ending the epidemic.

While the report highlighted that the Caribbean region has made progress in reducing new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths and great strides have been made towards the Elimination of Mother-to-child HIV transmission, progress across the testing and treatment cascade has slowed. Awareness of HIV status is the first step in accessing care but is also a potential prevention tool and a way to normalise and destigmatise HIV. Therefore, any action on HIV must start with testing and awareness of one’s status.

Likewise, we have to focus on interventions aimed at improving linkage to and retention in HIV care to achieve the greatest reductions in HIV incidence especially among Key Populations as they are the drivers of the epidemic in the region accounting for 60% of new infections.

It is important to note that if we are to end AIDS and even eliminate a number of communicable diseases especially those referenced by the SDG-3, we must tackle the entrenched inequalities that stand in the way of progress. The HIV epidemic, as we know has been unusual in the extent to which discourse about its epidemiology has been linked to poverty and inequalities. This virus thrives on inequality.

Adolescents and young people, particularly girls and young women, must be the focus of any meaningful response. They are subjected to poor access to healthcare and education, limited empowerment, representation and opportunities to contribute to decision making with partners, family members and communities. Issues such as gender-based violence, harmful cultural norms, stigma and discrimination put them at increased risks.

Addressing the needs of Key Population is also critically important. Access to care in most of our countries is hindered by several factors including criminalisation of same-sex relationships, hostile communities, homophobic discrimination and violence, external and internal stigma, and limited health education.

We must also not forget men. There are many cultural and social norms that are proving to be obstacles to prevention and control among Caribbean men. Partially to blame is the “macho” culture that influences Caribbean men to suppress awareness of their bodies and not to show emotions or vulnerabilities. This puts them at increased risk and can result in not accessing care, not testing and loss to follow up.

We must continue our ongoing efforts to accelerate equitable HIV incidence decline.

Finally, I want to touch briefly on the 90-90-90 Targets. The region is lagging in these targets. According to the report, 77% of People Living with HIV (PLHIV) know their status, 81% of people who know their status are on treatment and 80% of PLHIV on treatment are virally suppressed with only 50% of all PLHIV are virally suppressed. These gaps must be filled. We must get these bars rising.

Another worrying challenge is that of data to guide strategic interventions. Significant data challenges exist in the region ranging from data quality and the timeliness of data. Go down to the granular level. 90-90-90 at the site level.

Supply chain management must be strengthened to ensure continued access to ARVs and other commodities.

Ending AIDS and addressing STIs requires a coordinated multisectoral regional response as articulated in the Caribbean Regional Strategic Framework (CRSF) – 2019-2025.  The CRSF is our blueprint towards ending AIDS, and it highlights policies and programmes to accelerate progress for achieving the UNAIDS 90-90-90 Targets to Test, Treat and Defeat AIDS, to which the region has committed.

We also hold strong to our Justice for All programme that was launched in 2015 to promote activities consistent with the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights to which all countries are committed. It is intended to achieve one of the goals of the United Nations High-Level Meeting Political Declaration (2011) to eliminate stigma and discrimination against PLHIV by 2015 and to uphold the human rights and dignity of all.

PANCAP will continue to support the regional response by working with National Programmes, Key Partners and Civil Society Organizations, FBO etc.  We will address these challenges and work to break down the inequality barriers and other barriers that can hinder our move towards ending AIDS in the region.

Address ‘unprecedented’ impact of Coronavirus on Latin America and the Caribbean, urges Guterres

As COVID-19 continues to spread throughout the world, Latin America and the Caribbean have become a “hotspot of the pandemic”, the UN chief said on Thursday, releasing a new policy initiative on how best to recover in a region already embroiled in poverty, hunger, unemployment and inequality.

The UN brief reveals that several countries in the region, are now among those with the highest per capita infection rates worldwide and shines a light on how the crisis is impacting vulnerable groups, including indigenous communities and women.

“The most vulnerable populations and individuals are once again being hit the hardest,” Secretary-General António Guterres said in a video message on the pandemic’s effect throughout a zone grappling with fragmented health services – even before the coronavirus.

‘Unprecedented’ impacts

The UN chief emphasized the impact of the coronavirus on women across the region, who make up the majority of the workforce and now bear the brunt of additional caregiving. He highlighted the plight of older persons and individuals with disabilities, who are at greater risk; and indigenous peoples, those of African descent, migrants and refugees, who suffer disproportionately.

It is projected that there will be a 9.1 per cent contraction in the gross domestic product (GDP), which will be the largest in a century.

While stressing the need to “do everything possible to limit the spread of the virus and tackle the health effects of the pandemic”, Mr Guterres noted that “we must also address the unprecedented social and economic impacts.”

Steps towards a better recovery

The policy brief underlines an array of urgent and longer-term steps for better recovery, including the prioritization of distance learning and continued child-centred services to mitigate education interruptions.

Governments within the region are also being asked to do more to reduce poverty, food insecurity and malnutrition, such as by providing basic emergency income and anti-hunger grants.

Mr Guterres also flagged the urgent need for greater international support.

“I have called for a rescue and recovery package equivalent to more than 10 per cent of the global economy”, reminded the UN chief, underscoring the need of the international community to provide liquidity, financial assistance and debt relief for Latin America and the Caribbean.

“Latin American and Caribbean countries – and in particular small island developing States – should not be excluded from global assistance”, he asserted. “The international multilateral response needs to be extended to middle-income countries”.

Structural change

Broader structural challenges must be addressed to build back better and transform the region’s development model.

Against the backdrop of pervasive inequality, accessible and comprehensive welfare systems must be developed, fair taxation systems created, decent jobs promoted, environmental sustainability strengthened, and social protection mechanisms reinforced, according to the UN chief.

Moreover, regional economic integration is required, with “women participating fully and safely in public and economic life”, he stressed.

“Building back better demands strengthening democratic governance, human rights protection and the rule of law, in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, Mr Guterres spelt out.

Address root causes

The Secretary-General maintained that the root causes of inequality, political instability and displacement must be addressed, while underscoring that at a time when too many citizens feel excluded, “greater accountability and transparency are crucial”.

He expressed his full solidarity with the people of Latin America and the Caribbean as they face these challenges, saying that “solidarity and compassion should be their guide”.

“Together, we can overcome this crisis and build inclusive and sustainable societies for all”, concluded the UN chief.

Key numbers

•    Unemployment will surge from 8.1 per cent in 2019 to 13.5 per cent this year – yielding over 44 million people out of work, an increase of more than 18 million from last year.•    Poverty is expected to jump by 7.0 per cent to 37.2 per cent in 2020 – leaving 230 million poverty-stricken people.

•    Extreme poverty is forecast to rise by 4.5 per cent to 15.5 per cent –representing 28 million people more people in dire straits (96 million in total).

Image: World Bank/Charlotte Kesl | A seasonal worker at a store in Buga, Colombia.

UN warns of COVID-19’s effect on HIV treatment

In March 2020, the Jamaica Observer reported Dr Jennifer Brown Tomlinson, medical director at Jamaica AIDS Support for Life (JASL), urging people living with HIV to ensure that they take their medication daily.

A compromised immune system, Dr Tomlinson cautioned, may not be able to function at its optimum to fight against the coronavirus.

Said Dr Tomlinson: “People living with HIV who are on their antiretroviral medication have the same risk [of contracting the novel coronavirus] as the normal population. All of the precautions that are being advised for the general population also apply to people living with HIV who are adherent to their antiretrovirals.

That very sound advice takes on more relevance now as we are being told by health experts that COVID-19 could cause an additional half a million AIDS deaths if treatment is disrupted long term.

That chilling projection was made Monday at the start of the virtual International AIDS Conference at which it was noted that the COVID-19 pandemic was jeopardising years of progress against HIV.

The United Nations (UN), in its annual report, pointed out that the world was already way off course in its plan to end the HIV/AIDS threat before the COVID-19 outbreak.

According to the UN, despite the fact that AIDS-related deaths have fallen by 60 per cent since the peak of the HIV epidemic in 2004, approximately 690,000 people still died from the virus and 1.7 million people were infected last year.

There are now almost 40 million people living with HIV worldwide.

The emergence and spread of the novel coronavirus now means that the UN’s target of reducing AIDS-related deaths and new HIV infections to fewer than 500,000 this year will now be missed.

A key contributor to that danger is that the pandemic is impacting access to preventative medicine among communities at risk because of lockdowns and distribution difficulties.

A report from the UN conference tells us that one model run in conjunction with the World Health Organization (WHO) showed that if COVID-19 measures disrupted HIV treatment programmes for six months it could leave an additional 500,000 people dead.

Indeed, WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is reported as saying: “We cannot let the COVID-19 pandemic undo the hard-won gains in the global response to this disease.”

The information coming out of the UN conferences should not be lost on the just over 32,000 people living with HIV in Jamaica. Those who are not compliant with their medication need to heed Dr Tomlinson’s advice. In fact, anyone living with HIV should not, in the first place, be in a position of non-compliance.

As it now stands, our health authorities, and indeed the Government, need to ensure that the COVID-19 pandemic does not result in a shortage of antiretroviral medicines here.

For, while, as we have already stated, we are disappointed that Jamaica will not meet the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS 90-90-90 target, which was set to be attained this year, we are encouraged that JASL has already achieved one of the targets and is close to the 2020 goal of having 90 per cent of its more than 730 HIV-positive clients virally suppressed.