Knowledge for Health project set to ramp up HIV response

– scale up ‘test and start’

The knowledge generation and sharing capabilities of the Coordinating Unit of the Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV&AIDS (PANCAP) relating to the new World Health Organization (WHO) ‘test and start’ guideline is expected to be enhanced with the help of the Knowledge for Health (K4Health) Project.

According to Knowledge Management Advisor, K4Health Project, Sarah Fohl, the objective of the project is to bring PANCAP partners together to share best practices and improve access to information that is vital to HIV testing and early treatment in concise, well-packaged communication products that can be easily accessed and utilized by policymakers, health care professionals, civil society organizations, and other entities involved in the eradication of the virus.

 Minister of Public Health Dr George Norton (third, right) is flanked by PANCAP Director Dereck Springer (third, left) and K4Health Project Knowledge Management Advisor Sarah Fohl (second, right). Also in photo are PANCAP Accountant Collin Kirton (left), Knowledge Management Coordinator for the K4Health project Dr Shanti Singh-Anthony (second, left) and K4Health Communications Specialist Timothy Austin (right).
Minister of Public Health Dr George Norton (third, right) is flanked by PANCAP Director Dereck Springer (third, left) and K4Health Project Knowledge Management Advisor Sarah Fohl (second, right). Also in photo are PANCAP Accountant Collin Kirton (left), Knowledge Management Coordinator for the K4Health project Dr Shanti Singh-Anthony (second, left) and K4Health Communications Specialist Timothy Austin (right).

She further explained that K4Health Project is prepared to conduct a number of other initiatives including knowledge sharing events and workshops for PANCAP members. These would have been designed to increase learning opportunities and exchange of best practices throughout the Caribbean region related to the implementation of the new early treatment guidelines.

Additionally, K4Health is committed to offering assistance in revamping and relaunching the PANCAP website with fact sheets, policy documents, brochures, and other communication products which will concisely illustrate the importance of commencing early HIV treatment after a positive diagnosis as well as other issues related to addressing stigma and discrimination.

“Our overarching aim is to support the PANCAP Coordinating Unit’s mandate to demonstrate PANCAP’s value in contributing to a regional HIV response. We believe that through enhanced knowledge generation, sharing, and learning among PANCAP members, we can effectively support the scale up of test and start in the Caribbean Region,” Fohl said.

Similarly, Knowledge Management Coordinator for the K4Health-PANCAP project Dr Shanti Singh-Anthony in brief remarks yesterday, said efforts will be focused on identifying and prioritizing the information and knowledge sharing activities to meet the needs of PANCAP’s key audiences.

The project will allow for collaboration with a variety of experts to establish systems to collect, synthesize and share relevant knowledge in a meaningful way, she further pointed out.

Included in the list of topics to be discussed are successes and lessons learned in implementing regional response, sustainability of country ownership for national programmes, experiences and bets practices around the roll out and implementation of test and start, service delivery models which demonstrate success towards the 90-90-90 target, among others.

Director of PANCAP Dereck Springer welcomed the new partnership as he believes it has the potential to transform the way in which knowledge management and sharing is done among the PANCAP member countries with particular regard to the new WHO guidelines for HIV/AIDS treatment eligibility.

“Study evidence shows that the earlier persons living with HIV start antiretroviral treatment, they have better health outcomes. However, to achieve this paradigm shift, the resources required for diagnostics and treatment, staff education and clear and consistent public messaging about the benefits of Test and Start, must be understood by health and other key decision makers,” Springer said.

“The K4Health Project will assist with packaging and sharing vital information necessary for PANCAP members to begin the process of educating health care workers and the public about commencing treatment immediately after a HIV positive diagnosis,” he added.

Minister of Public Health Dr George Norton lauded the partnership while highlighting its significance in providing leadership in advancing the HIV agenda.

“This is no small achievement and is definitely one to be celebrated because today these public health specialists and practitioners are better equipped and are providing excellent leadership in advancing the and fulfilling the ministry’s mandate in ensuring that there is universal health care coverage for all Guyanese,” he said.

“Indeed, ladies and gentlemen, through this partnership, Guyana has received significant technical assistance to enhance our understanding of the 90-90-90 goals and the fast approach to ending AIDS by 2030.”

He acknowledged PANCAP’s continued support for Guyana’s national HIV programme, as well as its assistance in providing significant financial and other resources to ensure the successful completion of the third round of Guyana’s Biological and Behavioural Surveillance Survey among key affected populations.

These findings, he said, provided critical information which have guided the national programme by the principles of reaching the right people, at the right time, in the right place and with the right interventions. This, would have been done through an evidence-based response and adjusting to ensure that there is enhanced and unhindered access to HIV prevention, care and support services to everyone, and specifically those with the most need.

“As we all recommit and prioritize our actions towards ending HIV and AIDS, I am thankful for the partnership and the collaboration my ministry enjoys with the PANCAP Coordinating Unit… I look forward to their continued contributions to Guyana and the region through their new partnership with the Knowledge for Health project and their work towards ending AIDS in our region,” he concluded.

The K4Health Project, based in Baltimore, United States, is a funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) Bureau for Global Health, Office of Population and Reproductive Health and implemented by the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs (CCP). The programme, is expected to run for a period of 18 months and comes at a cost of USD$800,000.

Established in February 2001, PANCAP, is a regional partnership of governments, regional civil society organizations, regional institutions and organizations, bilateral and multilateral agencies and contributing donor partners which provides a structured and unified approach to the Caribbean’s response to the HIV epidemic.

Additionally, it coordinates the response through the Caribbean Regional Strategic Framework on HIV/AIDS to maximize, the efficient use of resources and increase impact and mobilizing resources and building capacity of partners.

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