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Remarks by Dr Rosmond Adams, Director, PANCAP at the World AIDS Day 2020 Caribbean Virtual Panel Discussion and launch of the In Your Hands HIV Self-Testing Advocacy Campaign

November 30, 2020

Good Morning Everyone

Let me say thanks to the organizers for having PANCAP as part of this important discussion. Indeed, this is a demonstration of the type of solidarity that is needed at this critical time to confront global public health issues and to respond to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

It is also a testimony of the shared responsibility that all must support whether individually of by our organizations doing our part in the response.

As we commemorate World AIDS Day 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has further challenged our efforts to reach global targets on the road to ending AIDS.

Nonetheless, it has presented us with opportunities for us to look at the way we are doing things and to explore new and innovative approaches that are results-oriented. The epidemic is changing and so must our response also.

We cannot sit and continue to debate how can we increase testing and increase the number of people who know their HIV status without seizing the opportunity to explore and implement initiatives such as HIV self-testing.

HIV self-testing is safe, effective and simple to use. It empowers individuals and it puts the responsibility right into our own hands. It also will increase uptake of HIV testing services, especially for populations with low access to testing and those at higher risk that would otherwise not get tested.

There is still fear and stigma associated with the traditional HIV test. There is the fear of needles, the fear around confidentiality, etc. HIV self-testing can help to overcome some of these fears.

There are concerns in the health sector that persons may do the tests and may not be linked to care if they are tested positive. I am certain that with good support systems in place, individuals requiring care can be linked to care and we can get the data needed to monitor and evaluate programme effectiveness. Also, when individuals do the tests and they are aware of their status they will be empowered to be more responsible.

We at PANCAP fully endorse and support the push for HIV self-testing in our Region and we stand ready to support countries in implementing Combination HIV Prevention Programs with an aim to reaching everyone and ensuring that no one is left behind.