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Director’s message – March 2019

March 26, 2019

“We are PANCAP”. Upon my assumption to the office of Director of PANCAP I was struck by partners who referred to us – the staff in the PANCAP Coordinating Unit (PCU) – as “you all at PANCAP”. Every time I heard that statement I cringed because it seemed at that time that they limited PANCAP to the secretariat – PCU. My response was to work to ensure that every partner understood that we are all PANCAP. I repeated that phrase so often that eventually partners, even those who were new, began to also say “we are PANCAP”.

I reflected on this statement many times during the recently held Seventh Meeting of National AIDS Programme Managers and Key Partners. I reflected on my one-on-one meetings with staff at the PCU when I would remind them that although we were fewer in number, we must work smarter to demonstrate PANCAP’s added value to the Region.  But we had to ask ourselves several questions and to be brutally honest with ourselves. Why would anyone want to support PANCAP in an environment of declining resources when countries are also struggling with the sustainability of their response? What is it that PANCAP does that others do not or cannot do? We could not just say that we are a best practice because UNAIDS said we were several years ago. We will be judged based on what we deliver now. Are we responsive to the needs of the people whom we were established to serve? Are we utilizing the comparative advantage of each partner? Are we really giving a voice to the voiceless? Are we judging our key population brothers and sisters? Are we embracing them or are we just ticking a box to satisfy our donors? The responses to those questions led us in the PCU along a journey to transform our image and how we work.

Weeks before the Seventh Meeting of NAP managers and Key Partners I began to sense that the Partnership’s goodwill was restored. I did not need any entity to tell me that the tide had turned. The response to our invitation was overwhelming. Our civil society, government, regional and development partners were calling and writing to us to be included on the agenda or as participants in the meeting. We sought donor approval to increase the budget to meet the demand but eventually our dedicated meeting coordinator informed me that we had surpassed the maximum.

As I escorted Honourable Terrence Deyalsingh, Minister of Health, Republic of Trinidad and Tobago and Chair of the PANCAP Executive Board to the podium to begin the opening ceremony, I was overcome with emotions. My staff know that I am very emotional. I struggled to hold back the tears of gratitude and joy. I felt the energy of the Partnership in that room. I felt the feeling of ownership of the Partnership. In that moment I knew for sure that “we are PANCAP”. I remembered the CSO representative from Antigua and Barbuda looking over at me. As I passed her, she said “smile just smile”. Those words helped me to put a smile in my voice. The post below from Anderson Langdon, Executive Director of the Barbados Family Planning Association following the PANCAP Knowledge for Health Share Fair sums up what we can achieve as a collective – our regional vision of an AIDS-Free Caribbean.