Message from Dr Rosmond Adams, Director, PANCAP – July 2020Advancing the CRSF 2019 – 2025 during COVID-19
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?