(PRESS RELEASE VIA SNO) – The OECS Regional Coordinating Mechanism HIV/TB Elimination project has qualified to apply for continued funding from the Global Fund.
The new funding request is expected to build on the current grant with a special focus on sustainability while addressing gaps identified the project implementation.
The OECS Regional Coordinating Mechanism (RCM) is a multi-sectoral body comprising representatives from the six OECS territories.
Director for the OECS RCM, Joan Didier stated that the Global Fund has indicated that the RCM has qualified to prepare another request for continued funding. She said development of a new funding request is a consultative process involving civil society, the public sector and other stakeholders in each OECS territory. The current grant focuses on eliminating HIV/TB among key populations however Didier plans to argue the rating the RCM received from the Global Fund.
“We have currently received a B2 rating from the Global Fund. We are going to argue that and the B2 rating is not because of our burden rate. We have been using the money. It’s because there have been some challenges with the data. As you are well aware men having sex with men and sex work, these are not popular words in our culture and our laws prohibit such activity so health care providers are finding it a bit challenging to give us the data that we need to provide to the Global Fund. And I am sure you will agree with me that the Global Fund is a donor driven organization. So they have to report to their donors and their donors understand numbers.”
Project Coordinator for the OECS HIV/TB Elimination Project, Dr. Cleophus D’Auvergne pointed out that the grant has made it possible for some major deliverable to be achieved such as updating HIV/TB/STI guidelines, implementation of the HIV case base surveillance system and the acquisition of gene expert machines for better diagnosis. However he said more work still needs to be done to reduce stigma and discrimination among key populations.
“We’ve actually been able to complete the barrier studies which assess the barriers that key population members face with accessing healthcare services, issues of stigma and discrimination. So we have an understanding of that as well and also through the population size estimate studies we’ve been able to get a sense of the level of stigma and discrimination throughout each of the six OECS countries. Stigma and discrimination in terms of family, stigma and discrimination in terms of healthcare workers, stigma and discrimination in terms of partners as well, we’ve also been able to get a sense of gender based violence that arise as well because of stigma and discrimination.”
Chair of the OECS RCM, Sen. Hon. Mary Isaac welcomed the opportunity for the OECS to benefit from continued funding. She noted that the grant helps support vital programmes within the health sector in each OECS island.
“These funds from international donors and organizations, such as Global Fund, really come in handy to assist us to execute our programmes here in St. Lucia. This has been ongoing and the last grant I believe is going to be exhausted in March of next year. Therefore we are making every effort to try to get another set of funding to continue the work that we are doing.”
The current three year grant of US $5.2 million was awarded to the OECS RCM in 2015.