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Message from Dr Rosmond Adams, Director, PANCAP – June 2020COVID-19 Continues to Challenge the Regional HIV Response

June 30, 2020

As the Caribbean Region continues to implement mitigation strategies to ensure the continuity of care for HIV during the COVID-19 pandemic significant challenges are still present and require a coordinated multisectoral response to stay on track if we are to end AIDS in the Region by 2030.

One of the most significant challenges faced by the region is financing healthcare, particularly financing and sustaining the National and Regional HIV response. COVID-19 has caused funds to be diverted to the pandemic response, which could result in a decrease in HIV funding. At the same time, external funders continue to withdraw from the region, reducing the availability of this level of funding, that is a significant contributor to many national programmes.

It is critically important for countries to sustain health gains and increase investments in the National HIV response.

How can countries commit to this in these challenging times?

Many of the countries in the region are tourism-dependent, and so COVID-19 will negatively impact these economies as this sector continues to take a beating.

As the pandemic continues to impact countries, additional resources are required to contain the spread of the virus and to provide health care to those affected.  The COVID-19 response will continue to demand more resources. Hence, the possibility of getting additional funds at the national levels for HIV is virtually impossible.

The Caribbean region, being mostly Small Island Developing States (SIDS), is very vulnerable to disasters. One common challenge is our vulnerability to natural disasters, especially the impact of hurricanes. With these adversities, the HIV response will not only be disrupted but there is the potential for economic challenges and implications for health budget allocation.

These challenges are real and continue to be compounded by the pandemic. It is crucial that as we sail these turbulent waters, we build capacity to govern and sustain the national and regional HIV response. There is the need to invest in health financing systems to ensure that the limited resources are managed wisely. Despite these challenges, we have to continue to push for increased domestic funding. Additionally, data continues to be a challenge; we have to look for ways for improving data use for planning, resource allocation and efficient service delivery models that can withstand COVID-19 and other emerging challenges.