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

PAHO Director warns of COVID-19 surge in the Americas

As COVAX delivers 2.2 million doses of vaccine and cases rise, situation is described as “an active public health emergency”. 

Washington, D.C. March 23, 2021 (PAHO)– Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Director Carissa F. Etienne applauded the arrival of over 2.2 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines procured through COVAX but warned that the virus is surging dangerously in many countries in the region.

COVAX, the global alliance to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, has helped deliver over 2.2 million doses to the region so far, including more than 1 million doses that arrived in hard-hit Brazil on Sunday. More doses are expected to arrive this week in Suriname and Belize, and an additional 1.2 million doses have been procured through COVAX.

But “the COVID-19 virus is not receding, nor is the pandemic starting to go away,” Dr. Etienne warned in her weekly media briefing. “Vaccines are coming but they are still several months away for most people in our region,” she said, urging people to continue to respect public health measures – masks, hand washing, and social distancing – especially during upcoming holidays. “People cannot let down their guard by engaging in close contact with others.”

“Although scale-up has begun, we know it’s not enough,” she continued. “We do not yet have the vaccines we need to protect everyone. It’s what happens when the whole world must rely on too few manufacturers. We must also find ways to share vaccines more equitably among countries.”

As the recognized procurement agent for COVAX in Latin America and the Caribbean, PAHO’s Revolving Fund negotiates, purchases and handles shipment logistics on behalf of the 36 countries participating in COVAX.

In the past week, over 1.2 million people were infected with COVID-19 in the Americas, more than during the previous week, while 31,272 people died of the virus, Dr. Etienne reported.

The pandemic is particularly dire in South America, where infection is reported to be spiking in Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay.“In Paraguay, a majority of ICU beds are occupied, and the health system is buckling under the pressure,” Dr. Etienne said.

“The virus continues to surge dangerously across Brazil,” she continued. “Cases and deaths are increasing, and ICU bed occupancy is very high in many states.” In neighboring Venezuela, infection is on the rise, particularly in the border states of Bolivar and Amazonas. Bolivia has reported an increase in cases in the Pando department, while “ICU bed occupancy remains very high in Loreto, Peru.”

The pandemic is accelerating elsewhere in the Americas, including Guatemala, where increasing cases and hospitalizations are “straining hospital bed capacity due to the influx of patients,” Dr. Etienne said. In the Caribbean, cases are increasing in Cuba, Aruba, Curacao, and Antigua and Barbuda. In Jamaica, cases have risen steadily for several weeks. In Canada, Ontario state has reported increased cases in the last two weeks while the U.S. states of Minnesota and West Virginia have reported rising deaths.

“What I’ve just described is an active public health emergency,” Dr. Etienne said. “As the virus surges and hospitalizations rise,” she continued, “we urgently need to scale up vaccination among our most vulnerable populations.”

Over 155.8 million doses of the vaccine, including the COVAX deliveries, have been rolled out in the Americas, and in the Caribbean and Latin America immunization campaigns are underway in 33 of the 35 countries with support from PAHO. The organization is also assisting the two countries, Haiti and Cuba, that have yet to start immunization.

“The doses that were delivered are helping us start to protect health workers and other vulnerable communities, and we expect more doses to arrive every week,” Dr. Etienne said, reporting that acceptance of vaccines has been high. “These WHO-approved vaccines are safe, and they work,” she said. “When it’s your turn, don’t hesitate. Get vaccinated.”

Pointing out the Americas’ long history of successful immunization against polio, measles, flu, and yellow fever, she said, “once our supply increases, there is not another region in the world better prepared to deliver vaccines swiftly and safely,” she said. “Our health workers have special expertise driving large-scale vaccination campaigns that cover diverse geographies.”

“PAHO has been providing training and technical support to countries so they have stronger capacity to track adverse events, which will be critical as new vaccines are developed and introduced into the region,” she highlighted. “This is a remarkable achievement, and a credit to countries for making vaccination a priority and to health workers for their commitment to keeping our region safe.”

She also reminded countries of the upcoming March 24 World Tuberculosis Day, a global event to raise awareness about the devastating impact of TB and embrace the WHO goal of eliminating the disease by 2050.

“We need to uphold our commitments to reduce the burden of TB in our region and around the world,” she said. “If there’s one thing I hope we take from this pandemic, it’s an appreciation for the power of health – and how good health is central to the wellbeing of societies…. Equal access to good health. That should be our focus. That’s how we end TB. That’s how we beat COVID-19.”

Regional Public Health Practitioners to benefit from Clinical Management of HIV course

Friday, 12 March 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, is facilitating an exciting educational and capacity building opportunity for Public Health practitioners working in the Region’s HIV response.

PANCAP is providing financial support for twenty (20) Public Health practitioners to attend the Clinical Management of HIV course at the University of Washington Global Health E-Learning Program. The course provides a global perspective on the diagnoses and clinical management of HIV. Participants will learn from experts in the field, who offer real-world examples of diagnosing and treating HIV and STIs in both resource-rich and resource-constrained settings, with a focus on using US-based guidelines. The course will commence in April 2021.

During a virtual orientation, Dr Rosmond Adams, Director, PANCAP, highlighted that the course is happening at a critical time when Public Health Practitioners are challenged with maintaining the HIV response while tackling COVID-19.

“Our public health practitioners have mounted an extraordinary response to COVID-19”, stated Dr Adams, “Within a few months, the Region reacted with COVID-19 testing, appropriate safety measures and public health education. Now we’re witnessing the rollout of effective COVID-19 vaccines within a year after the start of the pandemic. Our healthcare workers were responding to COVID-19 while maintaining the gains made in the HIV response. PANCAP is pleased to enhance their ability to test, treat and provide care for HIV by facilitating access to the course”.

Dr Shanti Singh-Anthony, Coordinator, Knowledge Management, PANCAP, explained that the online graduate-level course consists of video lectures, readings, discussion forums, and quizzes. She emphasised that group participation is encouraged as it provides a platform for discussing course concepts and applying them to the Caribbean.

Dr Singh-Anthony further highlighted that the course is part of PANCAP’s overarching Knowledge Management strategy to empower regional public health practitioners to achieve the 2030 goal of ending AIDS through providing the requisite capacity building, training and knowledge.

The course is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through support to the PANCAP Coordinating Unit. Mr Jason Fraser, USAID Country Representative, noted that they are indeed glad to support this initiative to build capacity as the Region advances action towards ending AIDS.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Guyana, Mr Malcolm Watkins, thanked PANCAP for spearheading this initiative and stated that it would build capacity for practitioners working in HIV to advance national and international targets.

Participants include Medical Doctors, Nurses, Physician assistants/Medexes, National AIDS Programme Managers, and Civil Society Organisation (CSO) representatives with clinical backgrounds.

The course is only the first phase of a planned capacity building initiative by PANCAP, encompassing more training opportunities and virtual courses for Public Health practitioners working in the Region’s HIV response.

      – 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:

Clinical Management of HIV course web page

What is PANCAP?

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.

International Women’s Day 2021 – “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world”

“This International Women’s Day challenges us to reflect on women who have taken up extraordinary leadership roles during the
COVID-19 Pandemic. From the outstanding leadership of Mia Amor Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados, who has been a pillar of the Region’s response to the Pandemic, to the single mother who has lost her job because of COVID-19. Women have persevered in the face of the Pandemic’s challenges.

Women living with and affected by HIV have experienced particular hardships with the loss of income and reduced access to HIV prevention, treatment and care due to COVID-19 restrictions. The Region’s National AIDS programmes and Civil Society Organisations are to be applauded as they stepped up to ensure continuity of care. The Region has also noted an increase in gender-based violence due to lockdowns. I challenge our members and partners to support creating an enabling environment in which ALL women and girls are protected, valued and respected”. – Dr Rosmond Adams,  Director, Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP)

#IWD2021 theme: “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world”

Women of the world want and deserve an equal future free from stigma, stereotypes and violence; a future that’s sustainable, peaceful, with equal rights and opportunities for all. To get us there, the world needs women at every table where decisions are being made.

This year, the theme for International Women’s Day (8 March), “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world,” celebrates the tremendous efforts by women and girls around the world in shaping a more equal future and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and highlights the gaps that remain.

Women’s full and effective participation and leadership in of all areas of life drives progress for everyone. Yet, women are still underrepresented in public life and decision-making, as revealed in the UN Secretary-General’s recent report. Women are Heads of State or Government in 22 countries, and only 24.9 per cent of national parliamentarians are women. At the current rate of progress, gender equality among Heads of Government will take another 130 years.

Women are also at the forefront of the battle against COVID-19, as front-line and health sector workers, as scientists, doctors and caregivers, yet they get paid 11 per cent less globally than their male counterparts. An analysis of COVID-19 task teams from 87 countries found only 3.5 per cent of them had gender parity.

When women lead, we see positive results. Some of the most efficient and exemplary responses to the COVID-19 pandemic were led by women. And women, especially young women, are at the forefront of diverse and inclusive movements online and on the streets for social justice, climate change and equality in all parts of the world. Yet, women under 30 are less than 1 per cent of parliamentarians worldwide.

This is why, this year’s International Women’s Day is a rallying cry for Generation Equality, to act for an equal future for all. The Generation Equality Forum, the most important convening for gender equality investment and actions, kicks off in Mexico City from 29 – 31 March and culminates in Paris in June 2021. It will draw leaders, visionaries, and activists from around the world, safely on a virtual platform, to push for transformative and lasting change for generations to come. – UN Women

PANCAP Director calls for a harmonized relationship between Governments and Civil Society Organisations through social contracting to further advance the End AIDS Strategy for the Region

Dr Rosmond Adams, Director, PANCAP, speaking at the PANCAP Toolkit for Social Contracting launch, called on governments and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) to work together harmoniously to advance the Caribbean’s efforts towards ending AIDS by 2030.

Dr Adams highlighted that COVID-19 has further exacerbated the challenges faced by national and regional programmes. “If we are to maintain the gains and sustain the response, we will have to ensure that all hands are on board moving forward”, stated the Director.

PANCAP launched its toolkit on Social Contracting last week. The toolkit presents a step-by-step approach to guide decision-makers in the implementation of Social Contracting. The toolkit is built on the principles of commitment, meaningful participation of all partners, transparency, fairness and equity, accountability and independence.

The toolkit will allow countries to assess where they are along the process and provide guidance to move to the next steps. For countries that are in the initial stages or are just discussing social contracting, the toolkit will provide advice on the critical areas for consideration, such as the legal and regulatory framework, costing and the standardized contractual mechanism that must be put in place.

Dr Adams noted that effective rollout of social contracting would require planning, ongoing advocacy, and collaboration between government and CSOs as they build partnerships to deliver HIV services. This partnership must be grounded in trust, transparency, accountability, and efficiency geared toward assisting government in implementing policies and supporting national goals as outlined in their National Strategic Plans.

The Director urged Governments to continue working with CSOs to develop, finalize, and approve country roadmaps for social contracting and commit to implementing activities outlined in the roadmaps.  These include revisions of current legislative and normative documents and to set aside funding to support social contracting for CSO services for key populations.

He called on donors to support government and CSOs to implement social contracting and provide technical assistance for implementation.

He also encouraged CSOs to advocate for funding for government social contracting and highlighted the importance of cooperation with the government to implement and ensure accountability.

PANCAP Launches Social Contracting Toolkit to boost HIV response during COVID-19

Wednesday, 24 February 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, officially launched a toolkit for social contracting during a virtual event attended by key stakeholders from the Region’s HIV response including Government, civil society organisations (CSOs) and the CARICOM Secretariat.

Social contracting involves governments providing financial support for programmes, interventions and other activities implemented by civil society organisations. This is done to help prevent reductions and disruptions in targeted services for key and vulnerable populations (in particular) and contributes to more rapidly expanding effective HIV, Tuberculosis (TB) and Malaria responses.[1]

In remarks, Dr Rosmond Adams, Director, PANCAP highlighted that the toolkit is timely as COVID-19 threatens to undermine the gains made in the Region’s HIV response.  He explained that the toolkit aims to assist regional countries in developing and implementing a social contracting mechanism in partnership between governments and CSOs with recommended actions set out in a 4-stage process and examples of regional and international experiences to guide decision making.

“Collaboration between governments and civil society is critical particularly at a time where COVID-19 has placed a strain on the Region’s resources for responding to HIV”, stated Dr Adams, “we hope that this toolkit can foster more collaborations and partnerships between governments and CSOs to maintain the gains made in the HIV response”.

Ivan Cruickshank, Executive Director, Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC), stated that he endorsed the toolkit and welcomed the attention placed on the need for more partnerships between governments and CSOs.  “Civil society is the heart and the backbone of the Region’s HIV response,” stated the Executive Director, “they reach the most vulnerable who are in urgent need of access to health.  Governments need to recognise the tremendous value that CSOs bring to the response and work with them to reach those most affected by HIV.  I applaud this PANCAP initiative and hope that governments and CSOs seize the opportunity to use the toolkit to build strategic alliances that will benefit the most vulnerable”.

Veronica Cenac, the consultant responsible for the toolkit, highlighted that it contains guidance to countries and recommends a four (4) stage process for the implementation of social contracting in the Caribbean.  These include securing the Political Will of Government and CSOs, Readiness Assessment – Analysis of Legal and Regulatory Framework, Implementation Process, and a Roadmap for sustainability.  She emphasised that effective rollout of social contracting will require planning, ongoing advocacy, and collaboration between government and CSOs as they build partnerships to deliver HIV services.

Jason Shepherd, Senior Programme Officer, Caribbean Regional Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS (CRN+), also endorsed the toolkit and echoed that governments and CSOs need to collaborate on HIV activities in light of the ongoing COVID-19 challenge.  “As we continue to navigate COVID-19, social contracting offers an effective solution for HIV programmes reaching those most at-risk for HIV”, stated Shepherd.

The PANCAP Toolkit for social contracting will be presented digitally to governments and CSOs across the Region.

– ENDS –

Timothy Austin
Senior Project Officer, Communications
PANCAP Coordinating Unit
CARICOM Secretariat
Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana
Tel: (592) 222-0001-75, Ext. 3409  | Visit

[1] OSF, UNDP, GFATM, Social Contracting: working toward sustainable responses to HIV, TB and Malaria through government financing of programs implemented by civil society. Background Paper (2017)

UWIHARP promotes sexual health and well-being during COVID-19

The University of the West Indies HIV & AIDS Response Programme (UWIHARP) at the Cave Hill Campus repositioned outreach activities with the arrival of COVID-19 to the Caribbean. UWIHARP staff quickly transitioned ongoing programming to a virtual format and developed relevant content to promote sexual health and well-being during the pandemic response.

The Sexual Health Online Conversations About COVID-19 (SHOCC) included: Safe Sex and COVID-10, Mental Health, Sexual Well-being, and COVID-19, Sexual Health and Gender-Based Violence During Periods of Isolation, Pregnancy, Wellness, and COVID-19, Intimate Partner Violence against Women During the COVID-19 Crisis, Living with HIV During COVID-19: Testimonies from the Communities, Intersecting Pandemics: Experiences of Marginalised Populations during COVID-19.

Virtual programming increased the scope of UWIHARP’s reach significantly. The SHOCC sessions attracted over 544 participants across the Caribbean and internationally.  Dr Michael H. Campbell, PhD, Chair, UWIHARP—Cave Hill, Barbados, expressed gratitude to the UWIHARP staff members, including Monique Springer, Kileha Anderson, and Kelly-Ann Yarde, for putting together the innovative response.  He also thanked the content experts, community members, and allies who facilitated discussions.

SHOCC and other virtual outreach programmes continue during 2021. For more information, visit