Regional Stakeholders to discuss Scaling Up and Sustaining the Regional HIV Response during COVID-19

Tuesday, 18 May 2021 (PANCAP Coordinating Unit, CARICOM Secretariat): The Pan-Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP), the mechanism that provides a structured and unified approach to the Caribbean’s response to the HIV epidemic,  will convene a virtual three-day meeting of National AIDS Programme (NAP) Managers, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and Key Partners, 2 – 4 June 2021 to discuss the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on national and regional HIV programmes.  The meeting will also discuss how countries are coping and adjusting programme delivery during COVID-19 to ensure sustainability.

Stakeholders will also decide how the Partnership and Key partners can support countries in ensuring programme continuity despite disruptions.

The meeting is occurring several weeks after the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) launch of the Global AIDS Strategy 2021–2026, End Inequalities, End AIDS.  The strategy focuses on inequalities and closing the gaps hindering progress to end AIDS.  It sets out new targets and policies to be reached by 2025.

Dr Rosmond Adams, Director, PANCAP, stated that the meeting is critical to the new trajectory of the Region’s HIV response as countries continue to be challenged by COVID-19.

“A survey conducted by PANCAP and Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) last year showed that during 2020, facility-and community- based HIV testing services reduced by two-thirds (69%) in countries due to COVID-19”, stated Dr Adams, “The meeting will facilitate essential discussions on how national programmes and civil society organisations can collaborate to ensure continuity of access to HIV prevention, care and treatment for the most vulnerable populations”.

The PANCAP Director also expressed concern about protecting the gains made in the HIV response even as the Region is experiencing another wave of COVID-19 infections.  “COVID-19 has strained health systems and exposed gaps in public health”, stated the PANCAP Director, “From the highest levels of national leadership to community-based health facilities, human, financial, and research resources were diverted from HIV efforts”.

He indicated that it is critical for stakeholders at the upcoming meeting to reach a consensus on advocating and encouraging governments and policymakers to increase, maintain, and guard domestic resources allocated for HIV.

The forum is also occurring as the world marks 40 years since the first cases of AIDS were reported and prior to the upcoming United Nations General Assembly High-Level Meeting on HIV and AIDS 2021. The outcome of the meeting will determine the continued success of the HIV response in the face of strained public health systems and what the response will look like in the post-COVID Caribbean.

– ENDS –


Timothy Austin

Senior Project Officer, Communications

PANCAP Coordinating Unit

CARICOM Secretariat

Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana


Tel: (592) 222-0001-75, Ext. 3409  | Visit

Helpful links:

Global AIDS Strategy 2021–2026, End Inequalities, End AIDS

Caribbean Regional Strategic Framework on HIV and AIDS (CRSF) 2019-2025


PANCAP is a Caribbean regional partnership of governments, regional civil society organisations, regional institutions and organisations, bilateral and multilateral agencies and contributing donor partners which was established on 14 February 2001. PANCAP provides a structured and unified approach to the Caribbean’s response to the HIV epidemic, coordinates the response through the Caribbean Regional Strategic Framework on HIV and AIDS to maximise efficient use of resources and increase impact, mobilises resources and build capacity of partners.


What are the Global AIDS Strategy 2021–2026 targets and commitments?

If targets and commitments in the strategy are achieved:

  • The number of people who newly acquire HIV will decrease from 1.7 million in 2019 to less than 370 000 by 2025
  • The number of people dying from AIDS-related illnesses will decrease from 690 000 in 2019 to less than 250 000 in 2025.
  • The goal of eliminating new HIV infections among children will see the number of new HIV infections drop from 150 000 in 2019 to less than 22 000 in 2025.


  • Through collaborative efforts of CARICOM-PANCAP and Member States, the Caribbean has seen significant achievements at the end of 2019, including a decline in overall regional prevalence from 2.2 % to less than 1.1% in 2019; a decrease in new HIV infections by 29% in the Region since 2010, a reduction in AIDS-related deaths by 37% since 2010 and total antiretroviral treatment coverage for the Region was 63%–71% for women and 56% for men (compared to 5% in 2001).
  • In 2019, 77% of People Living with HIV in the Caribbean knew their status; 81% of those diagnosed were on treatment, and 80% of those on antiretroviral therapy were virally suppressed.
  • The Region achieved tremendous progress with the Elimination of Mother-to-child Transmission of HIV in seven countries, including Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Montserrat and Saint Kitts and Nevis, in 2017. Cuba became the first country in the world to achieve elimination in 2015.

US Govt. gives Guyana US$1.5M to support HIV fight

The United States Government has renewed its support towards the fight against HIV in Guyana with a grant of US$1.5 million geared at assisting the country in crossing the finish line in controlling the HIV epidemic here.

The grant is part of the US President Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), under which Guyana has already benefitted from some US$185 million for HIV prevention, testing, care, and treatment programmes since 2004.

Speaking at a press conference on Friday, US Ambassador to Guyana, Sarah-Ann Lynch, said the partnership between the two countries on the HIV epidemic has saved lives.

Ambassador Lynch noted that this new grant would support the Ministry of Health and civil society partners until September 2022 in their fight against HIV.

She noted that Guyana had made significant strides on this front, with over 90 per cent of persons living with HIV knowing their status, which is critical for them to have access to life-saving HIV treatment. However, in the same breath, she pointed out that much more needs to be done in the area of treatment.

“With treatment, individuals’ health can be sustained, and the levels of the virus can be reduced so low that the virus cannot be transmitted to others.

However, of every four individuals diagnosed, only three are on treatment. This is not enough – and lives are at stake. Therefore, our priority must be to increase treatment coverage, aiming to ensure that everyone diagnosed with HIV is immediately linked to life-saving treatment services. We believe strongly that services must be client-centred, meeting individuals where they are, with what they need. Our PEPFAR support will help strengthen this, including for the most vulnerable,” the US diplomat posited.

Against this backdrop, Health Minister Dr Frank Anthony reassured the US diplomat that this US$1.5 million grant would be injected into addressing HIV treatment and other critical areas, where efforts have been lagging due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have developed a strategy of introducing self-testing, and so we want to roll that out, and we’re going to do more on that to roll it out. But this is going to ensure that we get more people to test and to know their status… We are aiming to get more people into treatment, and therefore, we are going to work – using some of the resources from this grant – to get some of the people who were on treatment and fell off to get them back on treatment. And also, for some of the people who know their status but were not linked to treatment sites, we’ll be able to do some of that as well. So, we’ll be able to increase those numbers to get closer to the desired numbers that we’re looking for… but that’s going to take a lot of work,” the Minister posited.

Dr Anthony explained that another area they will be using this grant for is to ensure that those HIV persons on treatment become virally suppressed and unable to transmit the infection.

But the Health Minister noted that one of the challenges they have been facing is not being able to do viral loads for all the patients who need it. As such, he said monies would be directed into addressing the viral loads needs.

Additionally, efforts are also afoot to eliminate mother-to-child HIV transmission. He explained that there are still a few cases of HIV transmission from mothers to their unborn child, and one way they are looking to eliminate this by testing exposed babies with dry blood spots.

“For a number of years, Guyana was not able to do that properly, and so we are now introducing this process of dry blood spots. And this grant is also going to help us with that. We also have decided to provide PrEP (medicine people at risk take to prevent getting HIV) for all persons who want PrEP. Before, this was quite limited to discordant couples, so we want to now make sure that anyone who feels at risk could come into any one of our clinics and get PrEP. Again, we’re going to get some assistance through this grant,” Dr Anthony stated.

On this note, the Health Minister acknowledged that a lot of work has to be done for Guyana to achieve its 90-90-90 UNAIDS goal, which aims to ensure that 90 per cent of all people living with HIV will know their status, 90 per cent of all people diagnosed will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy (ART), and 90 per cent of all people receiving ART will have viral suppression, all by 2020.

However, Minister Anthony said because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Guyana could not achieve all three of the 90s.

“In terms of testing, getting people to know their status, about 93 per cent of those persons who have been tested know their status… We want 90 per cent of those patients who know their status to be on treatment, and unfortunately, when we look at our 2020 statistics, we only have about 74 per cent of those patients who have been on treatment. And of those who have been on treatment, we want at least 90 per cent of them to be virally suppressed, and in 2020, we’re seeing only about 69 per cent of those patients have been virally suppressed,” he noted.

The Minister further added, “So for us to really work to achieve the 90-90-90, and even to get to the 95-95-95 by 2025, there is still a lot of work to be done. And that’s why it’s so important that this grant is coming at this time… It is going to help us to focus on all three of these 90s and try to get us close to where we ought to be and even aspire to get to the 95s.”

Dr Anthony went on to laud the partnership between Guyana and the US because local capacity has been tremendously enhanced to fight against the HIV epidemic.

Dominica eliminates Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV and Syphilis

The country is the eighth in the Caribbean to receive validation from WHO for the dual elimination. New HIV infections among children in the Caribbean declined by nearly 40% between 2019 and 2010. Reported cases of congenital syphilis are at 9.6 cases per 100,000 newborns, well below the goal of no more than 50 cases per 100,000 newborns.

Washington, D.C., May 14, 2021 (PAHO) – Dominica today celebrated its World Health Organization certification for the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis. With the achievement, Dominica joined seven other Caribbean countries that have received the dual validation, demonstrating continuing regional progress against the two diseases.

During a virtual celebration today, Dominica Prime Minister Hon. Roosevelt Skerrit said “what we are celebrating here is truly a remarkable achievement. Eliminating mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis as a public health concern requires the strengthening of primary prevention and treatment services for HIV and syphilis for pregnant women within an established and successful maternal, perinatal and child health services.”

Dr Carissa F. Etienne, WHO Regional Director for the Americas and Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), said, “Dominica’s journey to this ambitious achievement represents a cumulation of years of expanding the capacity of its primary care services to address communicable diseases and adopting harmonized and integrated approaches to improving the health outcomes for women and their children within maternal and child health services.”

While Dominica received the certificate for elimination during the ceremony today, the country was recommended by WHO for certification last September.

New HIV infections among children in the Caribbean declined by nearly 40% between 2019 and 2010 – the year that the Regional Initiative for the Elimination of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV and Congenital Syphilis in Latin America and the Caribbean was launched. During that period, the number of cases declined from 3,400 to 1,500. Reported cases of congenital syphilis in the Caribbean are now at 9.6 cases per 100,000 newborns, well below the goal of no more than 50 cases per 100,000 newborns.

The seven other Caribbean countries and territories that have received the dual certification are Cuba in 2015 and Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Montserrat and Saint Kitts and Nevis in 2017. Worldwide, the rest of the countries that have received the certification include Maldives (2019), Sri Lanka (2019), Malaysia (2018), and Armenia (HIV only), Belarus and Moldova (syphilis only), and Thailand (HIV and syphilis) in 2016.

Dr James Guwani, Director for the Caribbean Sub-regional Office of UNAIDS, noted that Dominica’s success brings the country and region a step closer to ending AIDS. “Dominica’s achievement in ensuring that its children are born free of HIV is truly inspiring and is testament to the combined strength and leadership of government, civil society activists and communities living with and affected by HIV. By putting people first, we can end the AIDS epidemic,” he asserted.

Jean Gough, UNICEF’s Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, said, “From now on, every child will be born free of HIV and congenital syphilis in Dominica. No mother will transmit these diseases to her children. Today is a moment of pride for the country, but also a source of hope for many others in Latin America and the Caribbean.”

Dr Rosmond Adams, Director of the Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP), described the elimination as remarkable. “This is a commitment by Dominica that no child is born with HIV or congenital syphilis. It is also an indication of the country’s commitment and the hard work of the health care providers to reduce new HIV infections, which is a key strategy towards achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.”

Dominica’s efforts to achieve elimination were intensified and accelerated under the umbrella of the Regional Initiative for the Elimination of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV and Congenital Syphilis in Latin America and the Caribbean, coordinated by PAHO and UNICEF with support from other regional partners.


Virtual celebration of certification of elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis (English)

Virtual celebration of certification of elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis (Spanish)

Global Validation of Elimination of Mother-to-Child Transmission (EMTCT) of HIV and Syphilis

Regional Initiative for Elimination of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV and Congenital Syphilis in Latin America and the Caribbean

Video – Dominica’s Road to EMTCT Validation

Gender-Based Violence – The Quiet pandemic holding back HIV Progress

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed and exacerbated existing inequalities within countries and across the globe. Gender-based Violence (GBV), an expression of gender inequality and toxic masculinity, is another pandemic that exists in all societies at varying degrees of prevalence and severity.

GBV has been a significant problem before the COVID-19 pandemic and continues to occur, impacting the lives of many. Unfortunately, this situation has not received the type of attention that it should get, and, in some places, it goes on quietly.

GBV requires the same effort and attention that governments globally have given to COVID-19. With many countries under lockdown due to governments’ response to COVID-19, GBV has increased significantly. This increase is a reminder of the need to have a contingent mitigating mechanism to protect the marginalized, women and girls, against a co-existing pandemic.

In the Caribbean, nearly half of Caribbean women surveyed in five Caribbean countries face at least one form of violence; physical, sexual, economic, or emotional. This is way above the global average of one in three women who suffered physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime. This is unacceptable and should motivate all of us working and living in the Caribbean into action to end this violence.

Gender inequality links GBV and HIV as one of two indirect pathways that have a more significant impact on HIV transmission than the direct pathways. In societies where patriarchy and unequal gender norms are deeply entrenched, men are more likely to perpetrate sexual violence, pay for sex, and are less likely to use condoms.

Intimate partner violence is also an indirect risk factor for HIV acquisition. Women who experience intimate partner violence have more mental health issues, including depression and anxiety, higher use of alcohol and less control over their sexual decisions. Experiences of intimate partner violence increase the likelihood that a woman will acquire HIV by up to 55%.

If we are to end AIDS in the Caribbean Region, we must tackle this silent pandemic immediately. GBV is a significant contributor to the HIV epidemic. There is growing evidence that GBV is not only a human rights violation but also a barrier to HIV prevention, treatment, and care.

The Commonwealth of Dominica achieves EMTCT certification

The Caribbean has achieved another significant milestone in the fight to end AIDS.  The Commonwealth of Dominica was certified by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for the Elimination of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV and Syphilis (EMTCT) in 2020.  The certification was granted following a thorough in-country validation assessment by the Regional Validation Committee, an independent body responsible for EMTCT certification.

Dominica joins six Caribbean countries that have been validated for EMTCT, including Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Montserrat and Saint Kitts and Nevis. In April 2015, Cuba became the first country in the World to achieve EMTCT validation and was recertified on 1 December 2017.

The Pan American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation (PAHO/WHO), the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and other regional stakeholders have extended congratulatory messages to Dominica on the achievement.

A virtual ceremony highlighting the country’s achievement is scheduled for 14 May 2021.  Key stakeholders from PAHO/WHO, UNAIDS and CARICOM, are expected to deliver remarks at the virtual event.

For more information on the certification ceremony, visit the PANCAP event web page here.  To register for the event, click here.

HIV self-test prices to be slashed in half in 135 countries

Poorer countries are set to see their access to HIV self-tests increase dramatically following a deal to slash prices in half and boost production, Unitaid said Wednesday.

The international health agency said it had closed a deal with US-based global healthcare company Viatris that will see blood-based HIV self-tests made available for under $2 across 135 low and middle-income countries.

HIV self-tests are seen as vital tools to help people more easily discover their status and move towards the treatment they need, and thus also to reducing the HIV burden globally.

This is particularly relevant in poorer countries, where concerns around stigma and difficulties accessing healthcare can create significant barriers, said Unitaid, which works on innovations on major diseases.

“Access to self-tests has been recognised as a key factor in meeting the global goal of 90% of people knowing their HIV status,” Unitaid spokesman Herve Verhoosel said in a statement.

In just the past six years, that rate has nearly doubled, from 45 to 81 percent, he said.

But achieving broader testing has been hampered by the fact that the market for HIV self-tests in low- and middle-income countries has been dominated by a single affordable oral HIV test, the OraSure.

That test is sold at cost in a limited number of poorer countries for $2, but elsewhere the price is higher, and other options have cost significantly more.

– Eight million unaware of status –

To try to fix that problem, Unitaid and US non-profit Population Services International (PSI) launched a call for proposals last July on ways to drive forward access to the tests.

The result was the Viatris deal, which Unitaid said should significantly expand the market and give countries more choice when it comes to self-tests.

This, Verhoosel said, would make “it easier to acquire the products and embed them in health systems, with the ultimate aim of helping the eight million people estimated to be unaware of their HIV status know they are infected and get treatment.”

Meg Doherty, who heads the World Health Organization’s global HIV, hepatitis and STI programmes, hailed “the wider availability of affordable HIV self-testing kits to increase access to testing.”

She said Wednesday’s announcement was timely at a time when the Covid-19 pandemic had in many places complicated access to a range of HIV services.

Self-testing allows “people to test when other options are difficult to access or restricted,” she said.

In addition to Viatris, Unitaid said another recently developed blood-based HIV self-test from US-based health care company Abbott Laboratories, which is currently undergoing regulatory review, would also be part of the expanded Unitaid programme, which would see around one million tests distributed “to stimulate in-country demand”.

Director’s Message – March 2021

Due to the global spread of the COVID-19 virus, many populations are experiencing negative consequences such as job loss, food insecurity, and the inability to manage existing medical conditions and maintain preventive measures to control the spread of the virus, such as social distancing and personal protective equipment (PPE).

Some of the most disadvantaged in the COVID-19 era are People Living with HIV (PLHIV) and other vulnerable groups.

As the number of new HIV infections decreases globally, there are still subpopulations that remain at higher risk of infection in the Caribbean and have limited or no access to prevention, care, and treatment.

The populations that are the hardest hit are those that also lack power and experience high levels of food insecurity, poverty, drug abuse, incarceration among men, and those suffering from other infectious and chronic diseases.

As we struggle to ensure continuity of services for PLHIV during the pandemic, we need to consider how we can better support them to ease the added burden of the pandemic.

We can support PLHIV by ensuring food and other social protection services, including temporary shelters for key populations, People Living with HIV, and other vulnerable groups.

There is also the possibility to explore opportunities to provide cash transfers and other support to PLHIV who have lost their jobs or are in vulnerable conditions, especially among key populations. Also, there is a need to provide services to support populations most affected by violence, especially among women, transgender women, girls, and migrant populations.

Let us use our collective skills and collaborate to support the most vulnerable during COVID-19.

Caribbean business leader nominated to UN HIV Task Force

Caribbean business leader and entrepreneur, Angela Lee Loy, has been selected from more than 500 nominations globally to be part of the Multi-Stakeholder Task Force for the 2021 United Nations High-Level Meeting on HIV. Ms Lee Loy is the lone private sector representative in a group comprised of civil society members from 16 countries.

The High-Level Meeting on HIV will be held virtually from 8–10 June 2021 and will review the progress made in reducing the impact of HIV 40 years since the first cases emerged. The General Assembly expects to adopt a new Political Declaration to guide the future direction of the response and bring the world closer to ending the AIDS epidemic as a public health threat as part of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.

The role of the Multi-stakeholder Task Force is to ensure the involvement of civil society and an open, transparent and participatory process before and during the High-Level Meeting.

Ms Lee Loy, a Trinidad and Tobago national, is the Chairperson and Founder of Aegis Business Solutions Limited, the largest business outsourcing and advisory company in the English-speaking Caribbean and Chairman of Eve Anderson Recruitment Limited, the longest standing recruitment agency in the region. She is a Fellow of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants and has over forty years’ experience in auditing and business advisory services.

The former Chairperson of the Trinidad and Tobago National AIDS Coordinating Committee has an outstanding track record of public service. Among her current corporate social responsibility priorities are coordinating private sector support to provide meaningful employment for Venezuelan refugees, an international campaign to increase COVID-19 vaccine confidence and COVID-19 vaccine procurement for the Caribbean.

“I am honoured to represent the Caribbean on this Task Force,” Ms Lee Loy said. “In a context of dwindling donor funding for HIV in our region, it is critical that we speak up to shape a strategy that ensures our governments, health sector, private sector and people do not become complacent and lose hard-won gains.”

At the last High-Level Meeting on HIV the community of nations agreed to ambitious targets including ensuring 90% of people living with HIV are aware of their status, putting 90% of diagnosed people on antiretroviral therapy and achieving viral suppression among 90% of those on treatment by 2020.

By the end of 2019 77% of people living with HIV in the Caribbean were aware of their status. Four of five (81%) diagnosed Caribbean people were on treatment while 80% of them were virally suppressed. National, regional and global data for the year 2020 will be available soon but it is clear that the goals adopted in the 2016 Political Declaration were not met.

“In the Caribbean, as with the rest of the world, AIDS is unfinished business,” said Dr James Guwani, UNAIDS Caribbean Director. “Progress has been highly uneven. Stigma and discrimination and the marginalization and criminalization of entire communities continue to fuel the epidemic.”

Ms Lee Loy’s representation of the private sector on the Task Force underlines the critical importance of corporate engagement in the HIV response. Some Caribbean business entities and leaders have made key contributions. For example, since 2019 people living with HIV in Jamaica who are fully compliant with their treatment regime have been able to access life insurance coverage through Sagicor Life Jamaica.  Scotiabank, in conjunction with regional and international partners, has coordinated a Regional HIV Testing Day across 17 Caribbean countries for several years, starting in 2007.

“It is in corporations’ interest to secure the health of their workers and customers by updating their knowledge about HIV and playing an active role in eliminating stigma and discrimination,” Ms Lee Loy said. “We have the tools to end AIDS but we need to support people to prevent HIV, get tested and access treatment.”

In Your Hands: Caribbean partners call for HIV self-testing during COVID-19

Stakeholders of the Caribbean HIV response have launched the In Your Hands HIV self-testing campaign, which advocates for self-testing policies to be developed and implemented as part of a comprehensive strategy to ensure that HIV diagnosis does not decline during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Even before COVID-19, the Caribbean was not on track to achieve the 90% testing target due at the end of 2020. In 2019, 77% of all people living with HIV in the Caribbean knew their HIV status. A survey conducted by the Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP) and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) showed that during 2020 facility- and community-based HIV testing services were reduced in 69% of countries due to COVID-19.

“This decline means that people with undiagnosed HIV are not getting life-saving antiretroviral treatment and, of course, continue to be unaware of their HIV status, with the risk of potentially exposing others,” said Sandra Jones, PAHO’s Technical Advisor for HIV/STI, TB & Viral Hepatitis in the Caribbean.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has presented the opportunity for us to explore new and innovative approaches that are result-oriented,” Rosmond Adams, the PANCAP Director, said.

According to James Guwani, the UNAIDS Caribbean Sub-Regional Office Director, it is particularly important to increase testing uptake among men, who are more likely to be diagnosed late. In 2019, 85% of Caribbean women living with HIV were aware of their HIV status, compared to just 72% of men. There is also a need to increase testing coverage among members of key populations who have reduced access to HIV services due to stigma and discrimination.

The World Health Organization recommends that HIV self-testing be offered as an additional approach to facility- and community-based services. Evidence shows that self-testing is safe and accurate and increases testing uptake among people who may not test otherwise.

Through the campaign, partners are advocating for national policies to include a communication package with information to link testers to HIV prevention and treatment services and minimum standards for the procurement and distribution of HIV self-testing kits in the private and public sectors.

“We strongly believe that HIV self-testing can help close the gap in the first 90. It can be targeted to individuals not being reached by existing HIV testing services, particularly those populations with low testing coverage and at high risk of HIV. It’s not a replacement for all testing services, but it should be included in the toolbox,” said Victoria Nibarger, the Caribbean Regional Programme Coordinator for the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

Under a Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria project for the region, work is underway to conduct verification and feasibility assessment to introduce HIV self-testing across countries. Already, Guyana has announced plans to roll out HIV self-testing this year, while several countries have either committed to developing policies or are now doing so.

UNAIDS is helping to coordinate the campaign in the Caribbean, focusing on supporting a knowledge management strategy that ensures all stakeholders have the information, messages and tools they need to lobby at the national level successfully. A key priority is ensuring civil society engagement and addressing community concerns about how self-testing policies will be implemented.

While representatives of communities of people living with HIV and key populations endorsed the call for HIV self-testing, they have advised that increased investments are needed in post-test counselling and adherence counselling for the entire HIV response.

Deneen Moore, a Caribbean representative of the International Community of Positive Women, said, “We need to improve peer navigation so that when people test positive, they have someone there to help them. We also need more social contracting so that civil society organizations can help reach people who test positive. There is definitely a need for us to be involved in the process.”

The advocacy initiative is jointly endorsed by UNAIDS, PAHO, PANCAP, PEPFAR and the Caribbean Med Labs Foundation.

UNAIDS Board adopts new global AIDS strategy which paves the way to end AIDS by 2030

GENEVA, 25 March 2021—The UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board (PCB) has adopted by consensus a new Global AIDS Strategy 2021–2026 to get every country and every community on track to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030. The strategy was adopted by the PCB during a special session, chaired by the Minister of Health of Namibia, held on 24 and 25 March 2021.

The Global AIDS Strategy 2021–2026, End Inequalities, End AIDSuses an inequalities lens to close the gaps preventing progress to end AIDS and sets out bold new targets and polices to be reached by 2025 to propel new energy and commitment to ending AIDS. The UNAIDS Secretariat and its 11 Cosponsors worked to develop the new strategy, which received inputs from more than 10 000 stakeholders from 160 countries.

“This year marks 40 years since the first cases of AIDS were reported and 25 years since the establishment of UNAIDS. We are at a critical moment in our historic effort to end AIDS,” said Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of UNAIDS. “Like HIV before it, COVID-19 has shown that inequality kills. COVID-19 has widened existing inequalities that block progress to ending AIDS. That’s why I’m proud that our new strategy places tackling inequalities at its heart. We must seize this moment to ensure health equality for all in order to beat COVID-19 and end AIDS.”

The strategy puts people at the centre and aims to unite all countries, communities and partners across and beyond the HIV response to take prioritized action to transform health and life outcomes for people living with and affected by HIV. The three strategic priorities are to: (1) maximize equitable and equal access to comprehensive people-centred HIV services; (2) break down legal and societal barriers to achieving HIV outcomes; and (3) fully resource and sustain HIV responses and integrate them into systems for health, social protection and humanitarian settings.

“The World Health Organization is pleased to endorse the global AIDS strategy for the next five years, with its ambitious vision for ending gender inequalities and realizing human rights, including the right to health, calling upon all partners and stakeholders in the HIV response in every country to transform unequal gender norms and end stigma and discrimination,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization and chair of the UNAIDS Committee of Cosponsoring Organizations. “For this strategy to be fully realized, WHO will continue to support all countries to strengthen health systems and especially primary health care, on the road towards universal health coverage.”

If the targets and commitments in the strategy are achieved, the number of people who newly acquire HIV will decrease from 1.7 million in 2019 to less than 370 000 by 2025 and the number of people dying from AIDS-related illnesses will decrease from 690 000 in 2019 to less than 250 000 in 2025. The goal of eliminating new HIV infections among children will see the number of new HIV infections drop from 150 000 in 2019 to less than 22 000 in 2025.

“I applaud the joint efforts in the global AIDS response. At this critical point in efforts to end AIDS as a global health threat by 2030, I call on all countries to support this strategy to get the global AIDS response back on track,” said Kalumbi Shangula, Minister of Health of Namibia and PCB Chair.

HIV prevention for key and priority populations receives unprecedented urgency and focus in the strategy, which calls on countries to utilize the full potential of HIV prevention tools, especially for adolescent girls and young women in sub-Saharan Africa, sex workers, people who inject drugs, gay men and other men who have sex with men, transgender people and people in prison settings.

“The Global Network of People Living with HIV (GNP+) fully supports the Global AIDS Strategy 2021–2026. The strategy’s life-saving framework for ending inequalities is fundamental to ending the AIDS epidemic and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals,” said Alexandra Volgina, Program Manager, GNP+.

The strategy is based on human rights, gender equality and dignity, free from stigma and discrimination for all people living with and affected by HIV, and is the result of extensive analysis of HIV data and an inclusive process of consultation with countries, communities and partners.

Achieving the goals and targets of the new strategy will require annual HIV investments in low- and middle-income countries to rise to a peak of US$ 29 billion by 2025. The total resource needs for lower-income- and lower-middle-income countries is around US$ 13.7 billion. Donor resources are mainly needed for low-income and lower-middle-income countries, while in upper-middle-income countries, which account for 53% of the investments needed, domestic resources are the predominant source of funding.

For more information: End Inequalities. End AIDS. UNAIDS Global AIDS Strategy 2021-2026