In 2014, an estimated 2 million people were living with HIV in Latin America and the Caribbean and 100,000 people became newly infected. Although the HIV response has been scaled up in several countries, regionally there has been little change in the annual number of new infections over the past five years. A major challenge is reaching vulnerable populations, who are often marginalized owing to discrimination and encounter legal barriers in accessing services. (http://www.unaids.org/en/resources/presscentre/featurestories/2015/august/20150825_LatinAmericaCaribbean)
Towards a Solution
The Horizontal Technical Cooperation Group is a technical group that for more than 20 years has helped countries and regional HIV/AIDS networks in Latin America and the Caribbean to share knowledge, experiences and ideas and to discuss challenges and priorities at the regional level. The founding premise of the initiative was that all countries possessed good examples from their national HIV/AIDS responses that could benefit other and similar countries. The founders of the group therefore saw the need to create a forum to exchange and discuss those good examples. Since the inception of the Group, its objective has been to strengthen countries national response by sharing experiences and knowledge.
The Group meets mainly on the fringes of regional meetings in which they participate. Once a year, however, they hold their ordinary meeting during which they agree on a strategic action plan that includes regional priorities. Group collaboration centres on spaces and tools for internal and external communication and theme-specific databases, suchasthatofdrugpricestoassistinmanagingdrugpurchases. Furthermore, the Group developed a South-South cooperation strategy for 13 interested countries in Latin America and the Caribbean that identifies areas where designated countries need support and which countries could provide that support for each country. The cooperation can take two forms: country visits and/or virtual capacitation meetings through virtual platforms that include social networks.
This initiative has made significant progress in improving universal access to prevention, treatment, care and support by holding technical-scientific events on topics including the evaluation of AIDS programmes, strategic planning, HIV/AIDS policies, mother- to-child-transmission, epidemiological surveillance networks and stock advice. In this way, it promotes the expansion and diversification of cooperation between countries through courses and internships, observation missions and participation in international events.
The Group, nationally managed and led, is an important tool to enable countries to increase their ownership of the response to HIV/AIDS and to set the agenda at the regional level. It has contributed through its 11 years of existence to setting regional priorities and ensuring the sharing of best practices. The fact that several of the activities of the Group are either virtual or take place in relation to other regional meetings contributes to the sustainability of the initiative. However, donor support has been and continues to be important for its functioning. UNAIDS, for example, has provided the online WebEx platform for use by the Group to hold its meetings and has also provided funds for meetings and for the hiring of a communications adviser. In addition to sharing experiences, the virtual training carried out in accordance with the South-South cooperation strategy has contributed to strengthening human resource capacities in various countries.
Other training held with the support of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and WHO focused on the latest scientific evidence and helped to improve the evidence-based management of HIV programmes. Moreover, the joint project on antiretroviral price information has helped countries to manage antiretroviral drug purchases by sharing the approach of other countries in the region, which has contributed to a more sustainable and efficient AIDS response. In parallel to the South-to-South cooperation strategy, the Group in the last two years has collaborated with UNAIDS, WHO and others to play a key role in helping countries during two regional forums to agree on regional targets for HIV treatment, prevention and zero discrimination. The collective work to reach those targets now contributes to the sustainability of the response by ensuring the buy-in of the main implementers at the national level.
The Horizontal Technical Cooperation Group comprises the heads of national AIDS programmes and representatives of regional HIV/AIDS networks. UNAIDS and WHO financially support the organization of the Groups meetings as well as those of the 13 countries committed to the South-South collaboration strategy. They also support the virtual meetings by allowing the project to use their online platforms (WebEx and Illuminate). UNAIDS provides financial support for the communication focal points. The mix of virtual and on- site meetings facilitates the replication and adaptation of the project at the local level. It is also possible to adapt the model to other thematic areas as long as partners have the will at the national level to build a regional network.
Contact: Dr. Ana Isabel Nieto, Coordinator of the National HIV/ AIDS/STI Programme in El Salvador and President of the Horizontal Technical Cooperation Group firstname.lastname@example.org; Dr. Carlos Falistocco, Director of the AIDS and STI Programme in Argentina and former President of the Horizontal Technical Cooperation Group email@example.com
Project name: Horizontal Technical Cooperation Group (GCTH)
Countries: Argentina, Belize, Bolivia (Plurinational State of ), Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of )
Sustainable Development Goal target: 3.3
Supported by: UNAIDS, WHO
Implementing entity: Horizontal Technical Cooperation Group
Project status: Ongoing
Project period: 1995 to present
Related resources: Facebook GCTH.