The The Pan-Caribbean Regional Partnership on HIV/AIDS, PANCAP, recently unveiled its five-year work programme with six priority areas that will define its approach to tackling HIV/AIDS in the region.”We will seek to provide an enabling environment that fosters universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care, and support services, continue to expand our coordinated multi-sectoral response to the HIV epidemic as well as programmes to prevent HIV transmission,” said PANCAP’s Coordinating Unit Director, Carl Browne.
“We will … continue to build our achievements in the areas of treatment, care, and support even while we increase capacity development for HIV/AIDS services. Monitoring, evaluation, and research will also see increased focus.”
Browne was speaking at the launch of the programme in October, where he presented on the topic: The Caribbean Regional Strategic Framework: Defining the Strategic Direction and Programmatic orientation of PANCAP.
He said the new programme will be carried out in all CARICOM Member States as well as Cuba , the Dominican Republic , the British and Dutch Overseas Territories, the French Departments of the Americas, and the United States Territories in the Caribbean .
The work-plan which outlines the organization’s vision, plans and work programme, will be implemented from 2008-2012. It was discussed in detail at PANCAP’S 8th Annual General Meeting held in Rosehall, Montego Bay, St. James recently. The second of its kind by the organization, it provides the strategic direction and programmatic orientation for the members of PANCAP in their pursuit of achieving universal access to HIV and AIDS prevention, treatment, care and support services by 2010.
“It serves as a call to these nations to accelerate their individual efforts against HIV while enhancing their regional collaboration,” Browne explained.
Several countries, including Jamaica agreed to meet specific targets aimed at providing access to treatment, HIV prevention methods and medical care to all persons living with HIV by 2010. This would mean increasing significantly, the number of HIV positive persons accessing anti-retrovirals at an affordable cost as well as the provision of adequate prevention methods such as condoms, which significantly reduces the risk of HIV transmission. In addition, care to HIV positive persons should be administered in an environment that is free from HIV related stigma and discrimination, which can make persons unwilling to use health care facilities, thus worsening the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
However, as 2010 approaches, there have been fears that the ambitious Universal Access goal will not be realized as many countries, especially developing countries such as those in the Caribbean , have faced many challenges, including inadequate funding of programmes, human resource shortages and inadequate staff training. One of the major challenges to Universal Access however, has been behaviour change, and HIV related stigma and discrimination is still identified as one of the major barriers to HIV positive persons accessing treatment, prevention and care, especially at public health facilities.
AIDS remains one of the leading causes of death among people aged 25 to 44 years in the Caribbean . However UNAIDS says the scaling up of antiretroviral treatment reduce the number of persons with HIV who are dying of AIDS related illnesses in the region. The UNAIDS’ HIV/AIDS Global Epidemic Report for 2008 estimates that at the end of 2007, 230,000 persons in the region were living with HIV/AIDS, however, the report states that only 30,000 people in the Caribbean region living with HIV were on antiretroviral treatment. The report did not say how many of those persons who were HIV positive, required anti-retrovirals, but noted that the new figure was an improvement on the previous year when only 20,000 HIV positive persons were on treatment.
At Pancap’s meeting, Jamaica ’s Governor General, Sir Kenneth Hall and Deputy Vice President HIV/AIDS Initiative of the Ford Foundation Dr. Jacob Gayle both delivered feature presentations on the theme Leadership Uniting Vision and Purpose towards Universal Access.
Updates on recent results of research on HIV/AIDS and the present state of the epidemic in the Caribbean were also discussed at the meeting which was held under the theme, Leadership: Uniting Vision and Purpose.