In this issue:
The interview: Unitaid and Wellcome on treatments for COVID-19
Four ways the fight against HIV, TB and cervical cancer carries on
News in brief
Treatments for COVID-19: providing an end-to-end solution
Interview with Dr Philippe Duneton, Unitaid Executive Director a.i., and Paul Schreier, Chief Operating Officer at Wellcome
Unitaid's efforts to transform the fight against major diseases continue in COVID-19 times. The Secretariat and implementing parnters are collaborating to protect the gains against diseases such as HIV/AIDS, TB and cervical cancer –and to advance 21st century solutions for these old-time challenges. Here, several partners reflect on the effort to continue delivering on the various initiatives with Unitaid's support:
Redefining community engagement to cut new HIV infections: Wits-RHI and Fiotec-Fiocruz
Bringing preventive treatment (PrEP) to people at high risk of HIV in an important strategy to reduce new infections. But how to stay in touch with vulnerable groups in the face of movement restrictions and people's reluctance to go to health facilities? The implementors of Unitaid's PrEP investments ensured the safety of their staff with Unitaid's support. Then, they redefined the way they engage with target populations by taking services online and closer to communities.
In South Africa, for example, Wits-RHI accommodates beneficiaries by scheduling convenient drop-off points and working with community-based organizations. "We identified hotspots where participants might be found, such as shopping centres and social grant pick-up points, and opened new communication channels via Whatsapp, phone and online chatbots," says project director Saiqa Mullick. She also notes that Unitaid's flexibility has been essential to adapt the project: "For instance, we received swift approvals to hire short-term health care staff to fill the positions of those who were isolating or quarantined."
"The learnings on how our PrEP initiative adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic have been invaluable and have been shared locally and internationally" –Saiqa Mullick, Wits-RHI
Fiotec-Fiocruz brings PrEP to transgender women, adolescents and men that have sex with men in Brazil, Peru and Mexico. "Telehealth allows us to continue providing social and mental health services, and we have also resorted to home delivery of PrEP pills and HIV self-tests," says project director Inês Dourado, noting the increased risk of depression and domestic violence during the coronavirus pandemic. Digital participant recruitment and peer support via SMS and social media are other good practices they have adopted and shared with the broader global health community. "Unitaid's financial and technical support has been flexible and responsive," she says.
"We are slowly, but steadily, resuming face-to-face PrEP enrolment, and Unitaid's support has been essential for the procurement of the necessary personal protective equipment"–Inês Dourado, Fiotec-Fiocruz