MOH SCALING UP HIV SERVICES IN BARBADOS

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Programme Associate at the United Nations Fund for Women (UNIFEM),??Cherise Adjodha, giving an overview of the project, as Regional Social Development Officer of the Department for International Development (DFID), Richard Carter looks on.????

The Ministry of Health (MOH) is currently seeking to expand HIV services in Barbados.

This disclosure has come from Acting Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Anton Best, who said key elements of the proposed scale-up venture included the integration of HIV and sexual reproductive health services, the decentralisation of HIV services into primary health care, and the improving of access to HIV testing, including the introduction of provider-initiated testing, counselling and rapid testing.

Dr. Best added that it would also include the training and capacity building for a wide selection of health care providers.

He made the comments today at United Nations House at the press launch of Phase Two (Building Sector Capacity) of the Mainstreaming Gender Analysis in HIV and AIDS Programming in the Caribbean. Capacity building training will be undertaken for frontline health care workers and persons in the education sector in Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada and Suriname.

It is being sponsored by the United Nations Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and the Government of the United Kingdom???s Department for International Development in the Caribbean, while the Bureau of Gender Affairs will implement the programme.

The project will emphasise technical knowledge and give cross-sectoral support to ensure the widest incorporation of gender analysis in programme formulation, implementation and monitoring, particularly in the education, health and social sectors.

Dr. Best stressed that the project was appropriate at this time. He assured the gathering: ???The Ministry of Health is very keen on playing a key role in assisting with this project, which will increase awareness on the issues of gender and human rights related to HIV and to build capacity amongst service providers in health care.???

He noted that the upcoming workshops would improve gender-sensitive communication and support gender-responsive development that would improve HIV-related interventions, as well as the quality of health care in Barbados.

Programme Associate at UNIFEM, Cherise Adjodha, said the HIV and AIDS epidemic in the Caribbean had tremendous consequences on the development of societies, from the taxing financial burden on health care systems to the implications for affected women, men and their families, as well as local economies.

Ms. Adjodha pointed out that HIV prevention programmes had centred on knowledge and condom provision and while there had been successes, the Caribbean was still struggling to see a sustained decline in new infections.

???Particularly, there is great concern that stigma and discrimination limit access to prevention, treatment, care and support services??? For a long time, the HIV and AIDS response has focused on risk behaviour, without acknowledging that our social, political and economic environment combine to create circumstances that can increase or decrease a person???s ability to navigate towards safe choices in sexual decision-making,??? she stated.

She pointed out that the use of gender analysis would allow for a more targeted response to the virus. ???We are coming to recognise and understand more clearly that our socially and culturally constructed roles as men and women, our gender roles; confine us to particular expressions of masculinities and femininities. In all areas of the HIV and AIDS response, we are confronted by dominant ideologies about gender which hinder women and men, boys and girls in protecting themselves from infection and in accessing services.

???This, combined with still very pronounced gender inequality, has contributed to the creation of an environment where HIV can be easily spread,??? the Programme Associate stated.

She added that through the training, participants would have an opportunity to confront their own gender realities, discover how their personal values hinder or help those in their care and learn how to employ a gender responsive and human rights- based approach to increase client access to prevention, treatment, care and support services. saustin@barbados.gov.bb??

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