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Regional stakeholders to discuss scaling up and sustaining the regional HIV response during COVID-19

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Posted: Tuesday, May 18, 2021. 6:59 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: In June, the regional organization that puts together a codified response to one pandemic will be meeting to discuss how to continue its operations in the wake of another.

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.

The meeting follows the launch of 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.

According to Director Dr. Rosmond Adams, surveys by his organization and the 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. It is necessary to discuss 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.

COVID-19 has also strained health systems an exposed gaps in public health resulting in human, financial, and research resources being diverted from efforts to tackle HIV.

Dr. Adams 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.

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