Director’s Message – April 2020
PANCAP highlights Next Steps for Continuity of Care during the COVID-19 Pandemic
This week I had the pleasure of speaking virtually with the National AIDS Programme (NAP) Managers and Key Partners on how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the continuity of care for HIV and AIDS in the Caribbean Region.
As countries implement containment measures to control the spread of the virus, the continuity of care is crucial for People Living with HIV (PLHIV) to ensure that they receive the care that they need. It is also equally important to ensure that those at risk of contracting HIV and other Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) are offered the necessary preventative services to protect them from contracting these diseases.
Our NAP Managers and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) work very hard to deliver preventative services, offer counselling services, ensure that persons adhere to treatment and that clinics conduct regular follow-ups. However, because of the implementation of COVID-19 measures, they are facing disruptions. In some countries, curfews, social distancing, and stay-at-home orders have reduced the operating hours for HIV care centres and the number of persons who can access care daily.
The potential impact on countries which may have lower-capacity health systems and large vulnerable populations, is still unknown and so appropriate precautions and mitigation strategies must be developed and implemented across all sectors to prevent potentially devastating outcomes.
The meeting urged National Authorities inclusive of CSOs and other partners working in HIV and AIDS to conduct a thorough gap analysis of the existing gaps and to identify potential threats that can impact the continuity of care during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Countries are further encouraged to develop a plan for the continuity of care during the pandemic. These plans should address how care will be delivered during the next six months in the first instance and then identify medium to long-term mitigation strategies as we do not know how long containment measures will be in place.
Countries are encouraged to explore innovative strategies for HIV prevention and testing, including but not limited to measures such as self-testing and the utilisation of already existing virtual platforms to reach individuals and groups who need care.
PANCAP and its partners will continue to support countries as these plans are developed, and strategic approaches are explored.
We recognise that operating in this environment can be difficult, but as a Partnership, our collective efforts will go a long way in getting us through these difficult times.