UNDP manages global fund HIV grant to Belize

31 Mar 2011

Belmopan — The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has begun implementing an HIV/AIDS grant agreement with Belize for programmes that notably aim to treat and prevent the disease among the country’s large cohort of teens and young adults.

With an HIV infection rate of 2.1 percent among adults, Belize has the highest HIV prevalence in Central America and the third-highest in the Caribbean after the Bahamas and Haiti, according to a 2007 study. UNAIDS estimates some 3,600 people are currently living with HIV/AIDS in Belize, 2,000 of them women. The former British territory has a total population of just 333,200, 35 percent of whom are younger than 14.

UNDP is taking over the management of a grant by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, & Malaria—the only Global Fund grant in the country. Authorities in Belize asked UNDP to take on the role of Principal Recipient (PR) for the grant when the nominated national entity wasn’t able to fulfill capacity requirements stipulated by the Global Fund.

The Phase 1 grant amounts US$3.1 million. UNDP is working with six government and local civil society sub-recipients to execute the grant.

“UNDP is learning from our many successes in responding to HIV,” Jeffrey O’Malley, Director of the HIV/AIDS Group in the UNDP Bureau for Development Policy, said. “Strong partnerships across multiple ministries of government, and between governments and communities, are absolutely essential. Prevention works when it focuses on and involves those most at risk of HIV infection.”

“Scaling up treatment isn’t just a moral imperative—it’s a practical possibility, even in poor countries.”

Belize, bordering Mexico and Guatemala, faces numerous factors that may drive the HIV epidemic.

With high rates of poverty, unemployment, chronic malnutrition, drug abuse, and violence, Belize is highly vulnerable to economic shocks and natural disasters, although the World Bank classifies it as an upper-middle-income country. Provision of adequate health care is significantly hindered by the steady outflow of many professionals, including health care workers.

“This partnership between the Global Fund and UNDP is the best of both worlds,” Francisco Roquett of UNDP Belize said. “It’s a perfect combination of very global knowledge with very concrete understanding of the challenges on the ground.”

This program, signed in December 2010, aims to provide a targeted response to these challenges and to halt the spread of HIV/AIDS in Belize, with a special emphasis on young people aged 15-24. It includes:

  • Delivering Life Skills-Based HIV education curricula in to secondary students
  • Providing most-at-risk populations with access to condoms and subsidized referral and testing of sexually transmitted infections
  • Designing and delivering psychosocial assistance to people living with HIV/AIDS
  • Providing a basic package of support services—nutritional, psycho-social, and educational—to children infected with or affected by HIV and AIDS in Belize and Stann Creek districts
  • Providing anti-retroviral medicines (ARVs) free of cost at all treatment points to those who need them
  • Reaching professional service providers with skill-improvement training events

“We have moved out of an embryonic stage in the early 2000s, when things were a little bit more haphazard,” Dr. Martin Cuellar, Executive Director of the National AIDS Commission, said. “The last five years saw us enter a stage in which we tried to establish systems.”

UNDP’s partnership with the Global Fund

UNDP has partnered with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, & Malaria since 2003 to support implementation of HIV, TB, and malaria programs in low- and middle-income countries. UNDP’s primary role is to support national partners to strengthen capacity and make effective use of Global Fund financing, including by leveraging governance, partnerships, procurement, financing, and project management skills.

As of the end of 2009, serving as Principal Recipient of the Global Fund, UNDP has reached 28 million people with prevention services, distributed 356 million condoms, provided 4.8 million people with HIV counseling and testing, supported 213,000 people with ongoing, life-saving antiretroviral treatment, treated 878,000 cases of sexually transmitted infections, provided prevention of mother-to child transmission services to 36,000 women living with HIV, detected and treated 700,000 cases of tuberculosis, treated 26 million cases of malaria, and distributed 11 million bed nets.