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PANCAP Says Person Living with HIV/AIDS are Most Vulnerable to the COVID-19 Pandemic

The Pan-Caribbean Partnership on HIV/AIDS raised the alarm this week about those living with the condition are not able to access to life-saving anti-retroviral. In the extended discussion with the partnership’s director, News Editor, Dale McDougall learned that countries like Belize are being affected by its own economic development. He further added that as Caribbean economies expand into low middle-income status, the ability to attract funding from donor agencies gets more difficult. Doctor Rosmond Adams explained.

Dr.Rosmond Adams, Director, PANCAP: “One of the issue that we discussed in the national AIDS program meeting and even prior to that is the sustainability of the regional and the national responses to HIV and when we speak about sustainability obviously funding is always a key topic. What we have been seeing in the Caribbean is that as the Caribbean countries graduate to higher income levels according to the World Bank classification we become less eligible to access these funding. And so with the decreasing donor funding it is becoming very difficult for us to sustain and maintain a number of HIV programs in the region. However we recognize that with our graduation to upper and middle income countries there are people who are below the poverty line, there are people who remain there no matter what graduation we get and these are the vulnerable ones and these are the ones who require our assistance and our support. And so what we are pleading with our donor agencies is to consider the numerous vulnerabilities in the Caribbean. It is not only graduating in income levels but the Caribbean as you know have been impacted by a number of natural disasters in recent years, COVID-19 is also impacting tourism and other major sectors in the Caribbean and there are other vulnerabilities such as climate change and the increasing burden on the health sector. So even if we’ve seen graduation or we will see graduation to higher income levels in the Caribbean the Caribbean still remains vulnerable. A number of the countries or most of the countries in the Caribbean are small island developing states and so with that comes the vulnerability. And so we’re pleading on our donor agencies to continue to support and to fund the regional and the national HIV programs.”

Because the economies are growing – although sluggishly – Doctor Adams says that it is important for a multifaceted approach by both the public and private sectors to create a healthier productive force.

Dr.Rosmond Adams, Director, PANCAP: “In the same breath we are also asking national governments to take ownership of their HIV response. We’re saying that yes we recognize that we need the additional support from donor agencies but national authorities have to take the ownership and have to demonstrate strong leadership that we recognize that the issue is a national issue and we recognize that we need to respond to HIV and so there is the need to also increase domestic allocation for HIV and other diseases. There are many ways in which you can do it and we’ve been promoting for example social contracting where the government can establish relationships with civil society organizations to help civil society organizations to reach those that are in need but there is also the private sector that the national authorities should tap into and say to the private sector we recognize that this is a national problem, we recognize that HIV can hinder sustainable growth and development and so we want you onboard because HIV is affecting those in the productive age in many countries and so if you want a healthy and you want a productive workforce we want the private sector on board because this is not about the Ministry of Health this is not about the National AIDS Commission it is about all of us and I think that we have to have an all of society approach if we are really to tackle HIV and to end AIDS in the region. And so we need to bring everyone together. We need to have governments making their commitments, we need to have the donor agencies supporting us but we also need to bring the private sector onboard to also support the response.”

Doctor Adams also noted that countries need to engage Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and communities by investing in civil society and community-led responses that tailor approaches to the needs of affected communities, particularly Key Populations, and to build strong primary health care systems that can deliver quality, people-centred care.