HIV 101: Understanding Technical Assistance
At the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) we specialize in providing governments and HIV service partners in resource-limited countries with technical assistance (TA) honed from our 25 years of expertise and service in pediatric HIV. In our latest installment of the HIV 101 series, we sat down with Alex Angel, Technical Writer at EGPAF, to discuss just how TA works and why it’s become an essential component of the fight to end AIDS in children.
What is technical assistance?
Broadly, TA can be described as tailored guidance provided to governments, stakeholders or health facilities to impart knowledge or skills in a certain area of work, to effect progress. In our case, the progress we work to achieve is focused around virtual elimination of pediatric HIV and AIDS.
How does technical assistance work?
Technical assistance is often initiated by need. In resource-limited settings, there are many barriers that have to be overcome in order to successfully implement programs to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic. So, as needs and challenges arise, we provide assistance and progress towards solutions in these settings.
For example, countries have begun implementing the new World Health Organizations’ (WHO) prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission (PMTCT) guidelines. In EGPAF-supported countries, we offer technical assistance to ensure that ministries of health have the help they need to develop a coordinated strategy to adapt and implement new guidelines and that health workers and program managers are trained on the new requirements.
EGPAF staff in-country are a part of national policy development groups, they back-stop regional and district health teams and conduct site visits to ensure training and mentorship support to health workers. These are technical assistance mechanisms. The approaches we use vary by context, but they all begin with working with government entities to pinpoint a problem and leveraging our years of experience to come to a solution. We work alongside national entities to provide meaningful technical assistance and we measure and record progress and challenges to ensure the effectiveness of our work.
EGPAF recently received a new global technical assistance grant through the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). How will this change the way we provide technical assistance?
EGPAF recently secured a five-year award from the CDC to offer technical assistance around prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission (PMTCT), and adult and pediatric HIV care and treatment in PEPFAR- and CDC-supported countries. EGPAF has historically offered technical assistance through in-country presence (a country office comprised of host-country national staff). This award will give EGPAF an opportunity to expand our work to ensure a greater reach toward our mission to end AIDS in children.
How does TA ensure sustainability and why is sustainability so important to combatting HIV/AIDS around the globe?
It’s like the adage “Teach a man to fish …” Through TA we are equipping countries with the resources and the knowledge they need to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic on their terms, within their own country’s context. As the global health community moves toward country-ownership of national health programs, this will become even more important.
Want to learn more about technical assistance? Be sure to check out the latest version of EGPAF’s technical bulletin, Haba Na Haba.