UNDP, Global Fund back El Salvador’s HIV/AIDS efforts

28 Jul 2011

Thousands are getting life-saving drugs

San Salvador—With its densely packed population and a healthcare system still recovering after a long-running civil war, El Salvador is getting vital support from UNDP and the Global Fund to treat thousands of people living with HIV and prevent the virus from spreading in the Central American country. 

UNDP began implementing an HIV grant from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, & Malaria in El Salvador in 2003. UNDP and the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare now jointly manage three Global Fund grants totaling just under US$38 million in El Salvador.

As a result of their partnership, some 6,300 people in El Salvador are now receiving life-saving anti-retroviral therapy (ART) for HIV, while some 3,700 new tuberculosis cases have been detected and treated.

“We have succeeded in integrating UNDP support into the development of national institutional capabilities, which allows the operation to be sustainable over time,” Deputy UNDP Resident Representative Richard Barathe said. “We want to continue this…because, in the end, the national institutions will guarantee that these efforts will continue.”

National capacity

El Salvador’s population of 6.8 million comprises the second-largest number of people living with HIV in Central America. But with an adult prevalence of less than 1 percent, El Salvador remains a low HIV prevalence country with a concentrated epidemic mostly affecting groups that engage in high-risk behaviors such as men who have sex with men and sex workers.

Young people are also at risk, and educating them constitutes a major part of the national HIV programme.

“Seven percent of new HIV cases in the last two years have been among adolescents. This is a cause for concern in our country,” Ana Isabel Nieto, Director of the National HIV Programme at the Ministry of Health, said.

“UNDP helps us to ensure that the entire population can have access to information and services,” she said. “It has been a great experience—I consider El Salvador an example of how a country can make care and information available to its people.”

“All of us together form a group that works for a common objective, which is to ensure that funds reach the target populations for which they were designed,” said Celina de Miranda, UNDP Coordinator for HIV and TB projects here.

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, & Malaria is the largest international channel of financial support for work on those three diseases, which disproportionately affect the world’s least developed countries.

As of the end of 2009, serving as primary implementer or 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, and supported 213,000 people with ongoing ART drug treatment.

It had also 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.