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unaids sustaincphotolandscapeDirector of the Caribbean Med Labs Foundation (CMLF), Ms Valerie Wilson, sounded an alert to  a regional audience at the 2nd Caribbean Regional Meeting on Strategic HIV Investment and Sustainable Financing, with respect to the current crisis facing laboratories within the region as funding for laboratory services has been reduced while costs and demand increase.

Ms. Wilson was presenting on sustainable financing and strategic investments in the context of the WHO 2013 HIV Treatment Guidelines and their implications for laboratory services.

The Caribbean Regional Support Team of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) in collaboration with the United States President’s Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) hosted this meeting in St Lucia from 23rd-24th January, 2014.

( In the photo, left to right: US Ambassador to Barbados, the Eastern Caribbean and the OECS, Mr Larry L. Palmer; PEPFAR Coordinator, Mr William Conn; and UNAIDS Caribbean Regional Support Team Investment and Efficiency Adviser, Ms Melissa Sobers)

The meeting was organised against a background that applying an investment process will help countries to evaluate the state of the disease and move towards a more focused HIV response that creates the most impact.

Countries invited to the meeting were: Antigua, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, St Kitts and Nevis, St Vincent and the Grenadines, The Bahamas and Suriname. In addition, there were representatives from key national, regional and international agencies, including Civil Society; the Pan Caribbean Partnership Against HIV/AIDS (PANCAP); the OECS Pharmaceutical Procurement Services, the Pan American Health Organisation, Caribbean Office; and the Health Economics Unit, University of the West Indies. The United States Ambassador for Barbados, the Eastern Caribbean and the OECS attended the opening ceremony.

The CMLF Director made it clear that with external funding dwindling, and with declining tourism in the region, Caribbean laboratories are being severely impacted, with several unable to do even routine testing. Ms. Wilson outlined the critical role played by laboratories in diagnosis of Non –Communicable Diseases, as well as HIV, support for monitoring those in care and treatment, and diagnosis of opportunistic infections and sexually transmitted infections. As Ms Wilson put it: “Caribbean Laboratories Do Not Live In A Bubble. They Live In the Real World. ……Labs are an investment that makes good business and economic sense because of their impact on individual well-being, patient in-stay and recovery, and therefore on national productivity, growth and development”.

This has been a continuing theme of CMLF’s advocacy work.  The Foundation  has been sending the message of the importance of investing in  laboratory services and the threats to the region of dwindling resources at various local and regional fora – for example  at gatherings of Ministers of Health, the Pan Caribbean Partnership Against HIV/AIDS  (PANCAP), Chief Medical Officers, and the Caribbean Cytometry and Analytical Society (CCAS) . In addition, CMLF explored this theme extensively in its newsletter, Caribbean Med Lab News, Issue #2, January 2013.

It is hoped that this time the message will have struck a chord with regard to the need for urgent action.

 Click here to read Ms Wilson's full presentation

Click here for the full meeting agenda

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CMLF News Issue #7
27th January 2016