Drive to rid Nevis health facilities of HIV stigma and discrimination continues

The Nevis Island Administration’s (NIA) Ministry of Health just completed the second phase of a project which is expected to help create stigma and discrimination-free health facilities on the island.

According to the Health Promotion Unit’s Education and Prevention Officer Nurse Eldina Farrell, the project aims to provide environments in which persons who are considered to be at an increased risk of becoming infected with HIV/AIDS could feel comfortable accessing health care services.

“The goal is really to provide an environment where persons living with HIV and other key populations like men who have sex with men, commercial sex workers, even the adolescents feel comfortable coming into our facilities and accessing our services.

One of the reasons why the epidemic is still a concern is because key population persons are a bit skeptical about the treatment they will receive and so they are not accessing care. In the end, this is in fact fueling the epidemic and that is what we are trying to minimise, the occurrence of new HIV/AIDS infections,” Nurse Farrell said.

A section of the health workers present at the workshop

A section of the health workers present at the workshop

The second phase of the project was sponsored by the Washington-based Futures Group, the Health Policy Project (HPP), based in Barbados and, the Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP) in collaboration with the NIA’s Ministry of Health.

She explained that the week-long training for health facility workers was a follow-up to a survey conducted last year which revealed that stigma and discrimination existed in health facilities across the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis.

“Last year November 2012, we did a survey to try and find out if stigma and discrimination existed in health facilities on St. Kitts and Nevis… After the survey was done, it was discovered that we do have stigma and discrimination in health facilities,” Nurse Farrell said.

Nurse Eldina Farrell, Education and Prevention Officer in the Health Promotion Unit of the Ministry of Health

Nurse Eldina Farrell, Education and Prevention Officer in the Health Promotion Unit of the Ministry of Health

She also noted that phase one of the project involved one-day training workshops for all categories of health facility workers.

We would have trained persons like the domestic staff and the other support staff, lab techs, record personnel and so on. That was done in phase one earlier this year.

At this point, we are in phase two where we are training nurses, nursing assistants, emergency medical technicians, nursing attendants and community health workers. Our aim, like I said, at the end of all this, is to create stigma and discrimination-free health facilities within St. Kitts and Nevis,” she said.

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