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PRESS RELEASE – The absence or low level presence of interventions that target vulnerabilised populations has called for an enhancement in how United & Strong Inc. delivers its services.
As the sole representative organisation for lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, transgender and intersex persons, U&S has responded by developing a project to address specifically healthcare and social services interventions.
In partnership with the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC) and with funding from the MAC AIDS Fund, U&S engaged in a targeted project of training and outreach. Although targeted at the LGBTQI community, the project was positioned to impact the general public.
A major part of this project included the engagement an outreach educator to meet the target audience in an environment that is safe and conducive to learning. Outreach educator Bennet Charles notes that the project has achieved success by meeting several of the expected outcomes.
Charles says, “Such an initiative positions United and Strong as a more effective organisation in meeting the needs of its members, and reaching target populations that are usually missed or neglected by other national stakeholders.We acknowledge the obstacles that are beyond their control but also realise that one of the challenges is the willingness of educators within some of these national bodies and other service providers to work with these populations.”
Over a period of several months the project saw the training of six peer and outreach educators. These individuals are now placed to directly engage the community in improving quality of life. Members of the LGBTQ community were also trained in HIV and STI (sexually transmitted infections) education and information sharing.
The project further established outreach education plans targeting hard to reach communities especially rural communities and other national hotspots (night clubs, etc.). These will continue in the medium to long term to reach more individuals and encourage positive sexual interactions.
Partnerships with the Ministry of Health’s Bureau of Health Education (BHE) and other national stakeholders were also improved under the project. Although already established, these relationships were enhanced with direct outreach-to conduct education sessions targeting youth and other vulnerabilities populations.
These partnerships were also instrumental in enhancing the delivery of targeted HIV and AIDS interventions to reach vulnerabilised populations. This is important due to the absence of intervention that should target these populations.
Another outcome expected to net results over the long term is the sexual health educational materials developed as part of the programme. Targeted at vulnerabilised/marginalised populations, the flyers focus on maintaining healthy sexual relations and improving sexual health as well as information on the services provided by the organisation.They are now part of the materials included in United and Strong’s outreach to the public and the LGBTQI community.
Charles notes that other long term impacts of the United and Strong, CVC/MAC AIDS partnership will be a greater empowerment of the LGBTQI community, particularly youth, and a reduction in the stigma and discrimination facing vulnerabilised populations. It further assists in Saint Lucia meeting the 90-90-90 targets for HIV reduction set by the UN and accepted by international community, including Saint Lucia.