The Caribbean Vulnerable Communities (CVC) recently hosted a 2-day sensitization session in Guyana with healthcare professionals supporting the country’s national HIV response in Regions 5 and 6. This training is part of CVC’s efforts to help reduce stigma and discrimination against members of key population groups accessing health services. The sessions are also linked to the larger goal to achieve UNAIDS’ 95-95-95 targets, by ensuring that vulnerable populations have access to necessary services and feel comfortable using them.
The training sessions consisted of several interactive presentations and practical exercises to actively engage participants in applying sensitive and inclusive principles in their work.
The session featured discussions on the following topics:
- Identifying how human rights issues (eg. HIV and gender-based violence) hinder vulnerable populations’ access to quality health services
- Incorporating pillars of medical ethics into daily practice: non-discrimination, confidentiality, respect for personal autonomy, etc.
- Improving the quality and accessibility of services: applying Differentiated Service Delivery (DSD) approaches, strategies to address human rights challenges, educating co-workers on non-discriminatory behavior
The participants openly welcomed the discussion topics as they engaged in the activities over the two days. Overall, they felt the session was very informative and highlighted issues in the country’s healthcare system that need to be addressed.
Following the session, Jennifer Christopher, a public health social worker for the Ministry of Health, shared her personal insights from the training. “Patients should be respected for who they are. The quality of our healthcare services should begin at the gate. Even the security guards who greet them must show respect for our patients,” she argued. She promised to share the newly acquired knowledge from the training with her co-workers and work towards improving the quality of their service delivery.
Another participant, Nekisha Jordan, also shared her takeaways from the session. “You don’t know what a patient has already been through. As healthcare professionals, we cannot burden them even further by holding stigma or discriminatory practices against them. We should show empathy rather than imposing judgement. We should not make our patients run away from free healthcare because they experienced discrimination there. We must learn to ask which pronouns they prefer to improve their comfort,” she said. She’s calling on her fellow healthcare workers to improve their service delivery and work towards making it more inclusive.
Meanwhile CVC’s Technical Programme Officer, Sasha Gaye Shaw, reiterated the importance of continued sensitization sessions in the country’s CVC works in. “This training session is important in our efforts to create an enabling environment for members of key population groups and improve their experience when interacting with Guyana’s healthcare system. When patients visit hospitals to seek help, they should be welcomed with open arms rather than discriminated against. I’m very happy to see how open-minded the participants in this session were. They actively listened to the information being shared and were determined to implement the teachings upon returning to their workplaces. I see this as a step in the right direction for Guyana’s healthcare system”, she shared.
This sensitization training session is a significant component of our mission to advocate for and uphold the human rights of members of vulnerable populations across the Caribbean.