The Pan-Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP) is a Caribbean regional partnership of governments, regional civil society organisations, regional institutions and organisations, bilateral and multilateral agencies and contributing donor partners. PANCAP provides a structured and unified approach to the Caribbean’s response to the HIV epidemic, coordinates the response through the Caribbean Regional Strategic Framework on HIV and AIDS (CRSF) to maximise efficient use of resources and increase impact, mobilises resources and build capacity of partners. PANCAP was established by a Declaration of CARICOM Heads of Government on 14 February 2001 in response to the threat of HIV to sustainable human development.

On March 2, 2021, PANCAP launched a toolkit for social contracting during a virtual event attended by key stakeholders from the Region’s HIV response including Government, civil society organisations (CSOs) and the CARICOM Secretariat. According to a press release by CARICOM, social contracting involves governments providing financial support for programmes, interventions and other activities implemented by civil society organisations. This is done to help prevent reductions and disruptions in targeted services for key and vulnerable populations (in particular) and contributes to more rapidly expanding effective HIV, Tuberculosis (TB) and Malaria responses.

The toolkit is built on the principles of commitment, meaningful participation of all partners, transparency, fairness and equity, accountability and independence. The toolkit will allow countries to assess where they are along the process and provide guidance to move to the next steps. For countries that are in the initial stages or are just discussing social contracting, the toolkit will provide advice on the critical areas for consideration, such as the legal and regulatory framework, costing and the standardized contractual mechanism that must be put in place. Dr Rosmond Adams, Director, PANCAP highlighted that the toolkit is timely as COVID-19 threatens to undermine the gains made in the Region’s HIV response. He explained that the toolkit aims to assist regional countries in developing and implementing a social contracting mechanism in partnership between governments and CSOs with recommended actions set out in a 4-stage process and examples of regional and international experiences to guide decision making. “Collaboration between governments and civil society is critical particularly at a time where COVID-19 has placed a strain on the Region’s resources for responding to HIV”, stated Dr Adams, “we hope that this toolkit can foster more collaborations and partnerships between governments and CSOs to maintain the gains made in the HIV response”.

Ivan Cruickshank, Executive Director, Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC), stated that he endorsed the toolkit and welcomed the attention placed on the need for more partnerships between governments and CSOs. “Civil society is the heart and the backbone of the Region’s HIV response,” stated the Executive Director, “they reach the most vulnerable who are in urgent need of access to health. Governments need to recognise the tremendous value that CSOs bring to the response and work with them to reach those most affected by HIV. I applaud this PANCAP initiative and hope that governments and CSOs seize the opportunity to use the toolkit to build strategic alliances that will benefit the most vulnerable”.

Veronica Cenac, the consultant responsible for the toolkit, highlighted that it contains guidance to countries and recommends a four-stage process for the implementation of social contracting in the Caribbean. These include securing the Political Will of Government and CSOs, Readiness Assessment – Analysis of Legal and Regulatory Framework, Implementation Process, and a Roadmap for sustainability. She emphasised that effective rollout of social contracting will require planning, ongoing advocacy, and collaboration between government and CSOs as they build partnerships to deliver HIV services.

Jason Shepherd, Senior Programme Officer, Caribbean Regional Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS also endorsed the toolkit and echoed that governments and CSOs need to collaborate on HIV activities in light of the ongoing COVID-19 challenge. “As we continue to navigate COVID-19, social contracting offers an effective solution for HIV programmes reaching those most at-risk for HIV”, remarked Shepherd.

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