Commission still in charge of HIV fight

Government is leaving the National HIV AIDS Commission in charge of its main programme battling disease, despite an unflattering review of the state agency by main financier the World Bank.

In an unflattering review this year, the international financial institution pointed to “weak capacity and leadership” at the commission and said responsibility for implementing the $70 million Second World Bank Government of Barbados HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Project programme would likely be transferred to the Ministry of Health.

But today Minister of Family Stephen Lashley said the commission would not only continue to coordinate the existing programmes, but its expanded aspects.

“It is also proposed … under these changes … the National HIV AIDS Commission continues to be the coordinating agency. Coordination of this project resides with the National HIV AIDS Commission; they will coordinate the expanded multi-sectoral national response to HIV, inclusive of the very successful … civil society grant scheme and behavioral change communication,” he told the House of Assembly.

He was speaking today on a $9 million supplementary resolution that was debated and approved by members of the Lower House. That money will be spent on new projects, which will be part of the World Bank sponsored project.

Other proposed changes, the Christ Church West Central MP said, related to specific targets of groups at higher risk to contracting HIV and AIDS, including sex workers, men having sex with men, and young people.

“We feel that in addition to looking at the implementation and executing elements of the project and in addition to the increased spend the new projects which we are rolling out that we will make even further progress in this project,” he said.

Lashley said the HIV AIDS programme was a success so far, despite the challenges, and praised the commission for its work.

In its review, the World Bank had identified under-utilisation of available funds, “lack of coordination” between the Ministry of Health and the commission, and “weak capacity and leadership” at the latter as the three main challenges of the project.

“Various options of restructuring the project were discussed at the (Mid Term Review) and the Government has informed the bank that the (Ministry of Health) would assume responsibilities for the implementation of the project. The Government and the bank will work out the details for the project restructuring in the coming months,” it said. (SC)

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