The Caribbean Vulnerable Communities (CVC) has been partnering with the National AIDS Commission (NAC) in Belize to address issues affecting persons living with HIV in that country. Through this partnership, scores of police officers, justice stakeholders and healthcare workers have been sensitized about how stigma and discrimination affect members of key population groups in Belize. The most recent sensitization session took place with healthcare workers in Belmopan on June 1 and 2. The session sought to build the participant’s capacity to provide differentiated care and services for people living with HIV.
CVC’s Executive Director Ivan Cruickshank, explains that “Because there are such diverse populations in Belize and the Caribbean, the first goal of these sessions is to have duty-bearers understand the variety of individuals who live in their communities. The same treatment and service cannot be provided to every individual. Services must be tailored to the unique needs of each person. Another goal of the training was to familiarize individuals with the nuances of HIV services. Often, healthcare professionals and police workers are trained to address the general population, but this does not mean they are familiar with the specific needs of key populations. Thus, these trainings aim to help healthcare providers know how to specifically serve people living with HIV.”
15 participants from various healthcare facilities across Belize attended the session. The training consisted of several interactive presentations and practical exercises which actively engaged participants in applying sensitive and inclusive principles in their work. The session featured discussions on:
- Identifying how human rights issues, such as 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 approaches, strategies to address human rights challenges, educating coworkers on non-discriminatory behavior
Meanwhile Programs Officer at the Belize National AIDS Commission Adrianne Apulche, said the session is important to help healthcare workers address stigma and discrimination in the health system. “The most vulnerable individuals are not able to access services because of the stigma associated with their personal identities or HIV status. Our mission is to fuel conversations about these issues to identify the triggers that lead to discrimination in society and develop solutions to address this behavior,” she said. Dr. Nicole Betson from the Ministry of Health who participated in the training said the session was informative. “The training was very informative in teaching us how to acknowledge that we all have our own opinions and biases. However, as healthcare workers, we must consciously put these aside to provide the best services for these key populations,” she noted.
CVC in partnership with the Belize National AIDS Commission will be undertaking similar sessions with police officers and justice stakeholders this month. By working with these duty-bearers in the community, they aim to ensure that such professionals will know how to appropriately address situations where the human rights of an individual have been violated. The ultimate goal is to create an environment where vulnerable groups have access to quality services that are anchored in stigma-free and ethically sound principles.
The partnership between CVC and the National AIDS Commission is ongoing and Adrianne Apulche says the collaboration has been immensely beneficial. “There is a long working relationship between the two organizations and by collaborating with CVC, we have learned more about best practices in the field. We are learning where we can move forward and which parts of our initiatives can be more effectively addressed,” she said.