The PANCAP learning exchange provided the opportunity for sharing of best practices and knowledge exchange from the various Caribbean countries represented. It also provided the opportunity for persons to improve their skills and replicate best practices highlighted by our colleagues from the Dominican Republic. With the information obtained during the learning exchange, I am now able to return to my island with my co-partner to start developing strategies to focus on critical areas where we were underperforming. This includes implementing a system to better inform our sex worker population as we continue fighting for an HIV free Caribbean.
I was particularly impressed with the clinic at COIN. A safe space has been strategically set up to ensure that persons who use the site clinic can access the services without their identity being compromised. Two access points have been identified to accommodate clients who do not want to be seen by other persons using the space.
Additionally, the clinic has been identified and labelled as a confidential room and unless requested by the client, only one person is allowed inside with the counsellor or tester at a time.
One of the ideas I noted from the learning exchange was modifying the hours of operation at the clinic to accommodate more persons who may not feel comfortable accessing the space during the day. One clinic we visited indicated that their testing was conducted during the evening to assist persons who work and those who prefer not to be seen.
Since seeking sexual and reproductive health services is still considered a taboo, I think incorporating opening hours during the evening will ensure that more persons can access services.
Persons utilising the safe space also have an opportunity to receive sexual and reproductive health education and items to prevent the spread of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) such as condoms (both male and female) and lubricants. To further facilitate and ensure confidentiality, agreements have been signed by members of the organisation which prohibit disclosure of any information about persons using the space.
Some of the strategies identified to enhance reducing HIV infections include continuous and periodic training sessions for testers in sexual and reproductive health education, including modes of transmission, various STIs, especially those that are prevalent within the population we serve. As such, we intend to replicate this best practice at home. We also plan to continue building our partnership with the Ministry of Health and Wellness to allow for increased coordination during outreaches. This approach has proven successful for our colleagues in the Dominican Republic.