PRESS RELEASE July 20, 2015
250 Healthcare Workers Trained to Provide HIV Services for Men who Have Sex with Men (MSM)
J-FLAG, Ministry of Health and National Family Planning Board Working to Improve Access to Non-Discriminatory HIV Services for Men who Have Sex with Men
J-FLAG and The National HIV/STI Programme of the Ministry of Health, National Family Planning Board have been working together to improve access to non-discriminatory health services for gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM).
Two-hundred and fifty (250) healthcare workers have participated in a ten-module training programme on the provision of services for MSM and issues relating to LGBT people and human rights, taught over a six-day period. This included fifty-three (53) frontline staff such as male and female orderlies, security personnel, receptionists, and porters. The modules included topics on Sexuality, Values and Attitudes, Sexual Health of MSM and Gay Men, Anal Sex, Social Context of MSM and Communication as well as Motivational Interviewing. In addition, a total of three hundred and twenty-five (325) persons who use public health services have also participated in sensitization sessions around stigma and discrimination, human rights and the Ministry of Health’s Client Complain Mechanism.
National HIV/STI Programme Senior Director, Dr. Nicola Skyers notes the initiative is a critical component of the national HIV response since stigma and discrimination is one of the primary barriers that limit access to health and social services among men who have sex with men, sex workers and people living with HIV (PLHIV).
“Fifty percent of HIV cases occurred among populations most at risk of HIV transmission, including men who have sex with men which accounted for 30% of all cases. Stigma and discrimination at our health facilities and in the society prevents people from coming forward for HIV testing, and impacts negatively on our efforts to reduce new HIV infections and put and keep people on anti-retroviral treatment,” Skyers said.
The capacity building for healthcare workers has led to positive changes among the participants. Majority of them said it will help to enhance their work and that they were now more exposed to the unique issues faced by LGBT people and would make an effort to use the information they learned. When we started the programme 65% of them had never been trained about MSM-related health issues and 70% had never been trained to offer counselling about anal sex.
The training is a part of a project led by J-FLAG, dubbed Mitigating Risks and Enabling Safe Public Health Spaces for LGBT which includes sensitization sessions for service users, capacity building for healthcare workers, advocacy training for civil society, high level fora, and meetings with policy and decision-makers as well as reviewing relevant policies and protocols.
According to Dane Lewis, J-FLAG’s executive director, the organisation is committed to ensuring that an individual’s sexual orientation and gender identity do not determine how they are treated when they seek health services.
“The project is critical to achieving Goal 1 Outcome 1 of Vision 2030 – The National Development Plan – a ‘healthy and stable population’. Therefore, it is critical that we reduce stigma and discrimination in our public health services and improve access to non-discriminatory health services as well as reduce new HIV infection among men who have sex with men and other key populations.”
J-FLAG has already secured funding to continue the project as part of its efforts to foster the development of an enabling environment where LGBT people are able to seek essential HIV and AIDS services and support free from stigma and discrimination.
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Submission to the Universal Periodic Review 2015
Earlier this year we made a written (and later an oral) submission to the Jamaica: Universal Periodic Review which highlighted violations of the rights of LGBT people living in Jamaica and the Government of Jamaica’s efforts to protect and promote their human rights and dignity. Among other things, our submission included recommendations to the Government on how to further, and more adequately protect and promote the rights of LGBT people living in Jamaica.
The submission is available here: SUBMISSION BY J-FLAG FOR THE JAMAICA UPR 2015
Our Advocacy Work
J-FLAG actively advocates for legal reform and the transformation of Jamaica into a society of inclusion and acceptance. A major part of the work we do to enable legal reform includes making submissions to Parliament. Our Parliamentary Submission to amend the non-discrimination clause within the Constitution to include sexual orientation was reviewed by the Joint Select Committee on the Charter of Rights Bill. In December, 2001, the Committee made its recommendations to Parliament. It declined to support our proposed amendment but did recommend that the House consider repealing the Buggery Law. We are now strengthening our efforts to ensure the successful passage of this bill through parliament, and will continue to push for the amendment to the constitution.
We continue to challenge all forms of discrimination and censorship by releasing regular press statements on current issues affecting the gay, lesbian and all-sexual community, and by publishing position papers on topics related to human rights, and by engaging entities such as the Jamaica Broadcast Commission, the Ministry of National Security and Justice, Jamaicans for Justice, Amnesty International, etc.