UNAIDS is partnering with the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) to support the roll-out of the Partnership to Accelerate COVID-19 Testing (PACT) in Africa, including Madagascar.
The PACT initiative, launched by the Africa CDC in April 2020, aims to conduct 10 million COVID-19 tests on the African continent. PACT has three pillars: test, trace and treat, which cover the procurement and distribution of COVID-19 test kits, the deployment and training of one million community health-care workers to support contact tracing and monitoring, and COVID-19 sensitization measures.
With funding from PACT, Madagascar is implementing a project to strengthen the engagement of civil society in the national COVID-19 response in the country. The first phase of the project has been initiated in six districts of the former province of Mahajanga, part of the Boeny region in south-west Madagascar.
Mahajanga has been chosen for the first phase because of its high HIV prevalence among key populations. According to a 2016 national survey, HIV prevalence is particularly high among sex workers, at 22.7% in 2016. As the former province is frequented by tourists, there are also concerns that another wave of COVID-19 may occur.
UNAIDS, the National AIDS Council, the Ministry of Health, at least 40 representatives of networks of people living with HIV and networks of lesbian gay, bisexual and transgender people (LGBT), a representative of the Mayor of Mahajanga and representatives of the health centre, local school and prisons attended a launch of the project. During the launch, 60 bottles of bleach were offered to the municipality to assist tuk-tuk drivers in Mahajanga with hygiene, as they and their passengers are at higher risk of COVID-19 infection.
Five community-led organizations have been identified to develop an implementation plan for the PACT project. The plan will be finalized after the results of a situational analysis of the impact of COVID-19 in the Boeny region are made available. The main recipients of the project are an estimated 136 000 people-people living with HIV, adolescents both in and out school, prisoners and key populations.
The project will engage local authorities and beneficiaries to contribute to effective implementation of the PACT project in Mahajanga and to the intensification of COVID-19 tests, with a particular emphasis on strengthening demand generation and contact tracing.
“We are proud to be among the seven African countries to receive funds to support the deployment of PACT,” said Jude Padayachy, the UNAIDS Country Director for Madagascar. “This project focuses on the COVID-19 response among people living with HIV, LGBT people, young people and adolescents, who have difficulty accessing care due to stigma and discrimination. No one should be left behind.”