- FIND and Unitaid are supporting 21 in-country advocacy partners across 19 low- and middle-income countries to develop and implement advocacy strategies that will improve uptake of test-and-treat approaches to combat COVID-19
- Projects will raise awareness of COVID-19 testing and treatment among the public, key opinion leaders, and specific high-risk and vulnerable groups
- Sitting within broader advocacy efforts, this initiative was conceptualised and executed by the Country Support Working Group, led by UNICEF, within the ACT-A Diagnostics Pillar
- This initiative complements a previously announced investment by FIND and Unitaid of US$50 million to support early adoption of test-and-treat care packages
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND. FIND, the global alliance for diagnostics and Unitaid are investing US$2 million in a coordinated advocacy programme spanning 19 low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) designed to boost access and uptake of COVID-19 tests and treatments. A total of 21 organizations with a diverse range of healthcare expertise have been selected from more than 300 applicants, following a request for proposals (RFP) and competitive selection process that included assessment by a panel of independent reviewers. Criteria for funding included previous public health advocacy experience and expected impact of test-and-treat advocacy in the targeted region.
FIND co-leads the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator Diagnostics Pillar, while Unitaid co-leads the Therapeutics Pillar. The Diagnostics Pillar’s Country Support Working Group, led by UNICEF, includes an Advocacy, Communications and Community Engagement (ACCE) Task Force (co-led by CHAI and UNICEF), which supports test-and-treat advocacy. This initiative follows the independent ACT-Accelerator strategic review that was published in October 2021, as well as calls from civil society, which both highlighted the need for increased inclusion and meaningful engagement of LMICs, regional bodies, civil society organizations, and community representatives in the COVID-19 response. Funded activities will provide avenues for stronger involvement of these key stakeholder groups in COVID-19 test-and-treat approaches.
Projects range in duration from 6 to 18 months, and will raise awareness of COVID-19 testing and treatment among the public, key opinion leaders, and specific high-risk and vulnerable groups. Partners include (listed alphabetically by country): Mhair Educational, Health and Human Rights Organization (Afghanistan), Family Planning Association of Bangladesh (Bangladesh), IMAG Communication (Burkina Faso), Maison des Associations de lutte contre le Sida (Burkina Faso), Health Poverty Action Cambodia (Cambodia), Caritas Développement Mbujimayi (Democratic Republic of the Congo), TB Alert India (India), Pi Consulting (India), Kenya AIDS NGOs Consortium (Kenya), Health Poverty Action Laos (Laos), Caritas Lesotho (Lesotho), ESTAMOS (Mozambique), REDTRANS (Nicaragua), Shifa Foundation (Pakistan), Media for Deaf Rwanda (Rwanda), South Sudan Community Change Agency (South Sudan), Sikika (Tanzania), Université Mahmoud El Materi (Tunisia), HEPS (Uganda), Zambia Interfaith Working Group (Zambia), Pan-African Treatment Access Movement (Zimbabwe). Further information on these partners and their projects is included in the annex.
Bill Rodriguez, CEO of FIND, said: “We have the tools to defeat this pandemic, but in many areas of the world they are still not accessible to those who need them. Armed with learnings from the fight against HIV, we know that impact is best achieved when communities are empowered to advocate for patients to receive timely and appropriate test-and-treat services.”
Philippe Duneton, Executive Director of Unitaid, said: “We now have treatment options that can prevent hospitalizations and deaths for those at high risk of developing severe or critical COVID-19. Timely deployment of adequate tests and treatments in low-resource settings, especially for the people at risk of severe cases, will be key in the response to the pandemic. And supporting civil society organizations and communities, at the heart of this endeavour, is crucial for its success.”
Alexandre Costa, Senior Health Advisor at UNICEF and a co-lead of the ACCE Task Force, said: “While we have greater innovations in diagnostics for COVID-19, we are faced with a global decrease in testing rates and persisting challenges around equitable access. Testing is a key element of the response, and the best tool we have to detect outbreaks early, reduce transmission and limit the social and economic impact. Engaging communities in LMICs in a test and treat approach brings us closer to our shared goal of more equitable access.”
Renuka Gadde, Senior Advisor for Global Diagnostics at CHAI and co-lead of the ACCE Task Force, said: “Testing is critical to prevent outbreaks and end the pandemic, yet it is still not regularly occurring in many low- and middle-income countries. Working with governments and communities, we can help drive understanding based on countries’ unique needs to reduce bottlenecks and ensure that tests are not only available but are regularly conducted.”
Carolyn Gomes, civil society representative to the ACT-Accelerator, said: “Financial resources are absolutely essential to the sustained mobilization of community and civil society organizations toward any disease response, with these grants providing a crucial boost to efforts to advance COVID test and treat awareness and advocacy strategies. The ACT-A community and civil society representatives to the diagnostics and therapeutics pillars applaud Unitaid and FIND’s recognition of the essential role of local community and civil society participation in health literacy and dialogue on public health policy, as well as the importance of community and civil society awareness and mobilization to maximizing equity of and access to public health interventions.”
This work complements a previously announced investment by FIND and Unitaid of US$50 million, which addresses inequities in access to COVID-19 testing and treatment, as well as supporting early adoption of comprehensive, effective, and safe care packages for people with COVID-19. More recently, at the Second Global COVID-19 Summit, the Global Fund, USAID and Unitaid, together with FIND and other ACT-Accelerator partners, announced more than US$120 million to support test-and-treat implementation with locally led solutions in over 20 low- and middle-income countries.
Annex: List of selected partners and projects
FIND, the global alliance for diagnostics, seeks to ensure equitable access to reliable diagnosis around the world. We connect countries and communities, funders, decision-makers, healthcare providers and developers to spur diagnostic innovation and make testing an integral part of sustainable, resilient health systems. We are working to save 1 million lives through accessible, quality diagnosis, and save US$1 billion in healthcare costs to patients and health systems. We are co-convener of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator diagnostics pillar, and a WHO Collaborating Centre for Laboratory Strengthening and Diagnostic Technology Evaluation. For more information, please visit www.finddx.org
Unitaid is a global health agency engaged in finding innovative solutions to prevent, diagnose, and treat diseases more quickly, cheaply, and effectively, in low- and middle-income countries. Its work includes funding initiatives to address major diseases such as HIV, malaria, and tuberculosis, as well as HIV co-infections and co-morbidities including advanced HIV disease, cervical cancer, and hepatitis C, and cross-cutting areas, such as fever management. Unitaid is now applying its expertise to address challenges in advancing new therapies and diagnostics for the COVID-19 pandemic, serving as a key member of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, co-leading with Wellcome the Therapeutics Pillar and participating in the Diagnostics Pillar. Unitaid is hosted by the World Health Organization. For more information, please visit www.unitaid.org
About the ACT-Accelerator
The Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator is a global coalition of organizations developing and deploying the new diagnostics, treatments and vaccines needed to end the acute phase of the pandemic. Pooling the expertise of its many partners, the ACT-Accelerator has quickly ushered in rapid, affordable tests and effective medicines for low and middle-income countries and established the COVAX facility for the equitable procurement and distribution of vaccines in low- and lower-middle-income countries. The ACT Accelerator partnership was formed at the onset of the pandemic in response to a call from G20 leaders, and was launched by WHO, the European Commission, France, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
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