ST LUCIA – Concerns over HIV data collection in OECS

A senior official of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) HIV/tuberculosis (TB) elimination project says HIV data collection for key populations in the sub region remains a challenge despite the many successes of the programme.

The project coordinator of the HIV/TB Elimination Grant, Dr Cleophas D’Auvergne, said this is particularly the case for men who have sex with men.

“Programme integration and coordination between HIV and TB programmes and for TB, it’s scaling up TB case detection in high risk populations especially migrant populations, the homeless, substance abusers as well. So it’s really a constant process,” Dr. D’Auvergne said.

“We’re trying to ascertain the gaps we see now in the current grant so that we can use those gaps and actually try to incorporate synergies towards facilitating an improved continuation of the grant in the future for 2019 to 2022,” he added.

In 2015, the OECS Regional Coordinating Mechanism (RCM) was awarded a US$5.2 million grant by the Global Fund, towards the elimination of HIV and TB in the sub-region, but with the funding coming to an end in 2019, the RCM has been invited by the Global Fund to prepare another three- year programme to facilitate the continuation of services.

Despite the challenge of date collection, Dr D’Auvergne noted that among the successes of the project are workshops on combination prevention, a minimum package of services for sexual and reproductive health, human rights and legal literacy training, the sustained procurement of ARVs, condoms and lubricants for key populations and the production of educational manuals.

HIV and Syphilis train the trainer workshops are also among the achievements highlighted for greater penetration of key populations.

“In terms of the TB elimination we’ve been able to have the country assessments. PAHO has been very instrumental in conducting the national TB country assessments. We’ve been able to develop a draft OECS strategy as well as countries have been able to develop their national country elimination plans,” he said, noting that clinical guidelines for HIV/TB and STIs have also been developed and updated.

‘With regard to surveillance, we’ve had a major success in terms of conducting the population size estimate studies we’ve been trying to do for a number of years now. At least 10 years and we’re finally able to have this completed.

“We’re now in the data analysis and validation phase, as well as we’ve developed our HIV Clinical Management Module which will be used to actually strengthen the validation process for mother to child transmission of HIV and strengthen TB elimination in the future,’ D’Auvergne said.

The OECS groups the islands of Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Kitts-Nevis, Anguilla and the British Virgin islands.

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