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HIV and STIs

The majority of HIV infections are sexually transmitted or are associated with pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding.  Our work links prevention with treatment, care and support, reduces HIV-related stigma and discrimination, and responds to unique regional and national characteristics of the epidemic.

Articles by HIV and STIs

trinidad

Changing Mindsets Through Medicine & Motivation

“You work with people who have HIV? Why?”  That was the question asked to Dr. Gregory Boyce by the young intern that stood before him. He had come to the hospital ward to visit a client who was known to be living with HIV. He approached the intern at the desk and gave his name and designation. The intern looked at him, confused and somewhat amused and asked the question that he has neither forgotten, nor understood to this day.  However, this young intern’s question comes from a mindset that Dr. Boyce is working fervently to change. As Deputy Director of the Medical Research Foundation of Trinidad and Tobago (MRF), Dr. Boyce provides clinical as well as administrative support to a team of doctors and nurses whose daily vocation is to persons living with HIV. Due to MRF’s long-standing work in HIV research and healthcare, the Family Planning Association of Trinidad and Tobago (FPATT), has navigated many of its clients to Dr. Boyce and his team, especially clients from the LGBTQI community.  “Persons coming to us from key populations, have very layered needs. They are facing unique challenges in addition to living with the virus. There is still that myth that being HIV positive means that you will positively die. Added to that, there’s the discrimination that the community faces in every aspect of their lives on a daily basis. As a staff, we’ve had to seek special training to guide the way we interact with these clients so that we can meet all their needs appropriately and sensitively,” explains Dr. Boyce.  He continued “Apart from medical interventions which are needed to ensure that our clients continue to live healthy lives, we focus heavily on their psychosocial needs. It’s easy to think that because a client is physically healthy that they are also emotionally healthy. We have clients that won’t leave abusive relationships because they think no one else would accept them. We have other clients that are dealing with long-term medication fatigue because they have been taking pills for over 10 years. With that sometimes comes depression and other drug addictions, which is why it’s necessary for us to maintain open and honest relationships to address those accompanying issues.” Making HIV a non-issue Having worked with persons living with HIV for over 20 years, Dr. Boyce remembers the early days that led him to this specialization. He had worked at the Port of Spain General Hospital after graduating, during which time, medicine for persons living with HIV was expensive and out of reach for many. A few years later, through government programmes, medicine became more affordable, and treatment centers were opening up across the island. However, Dr. Boyce realized that the mortality rate had not changed by much. He wondered why people were still dying from a virus when medicine was easily accessible. That was when he decided to follow his heart and commit to helping persons with HIV understand that there is hope.  “That first conversation – giving a client the news that they’ve tested positive – is very important. We get to show them that HIV is not an impediment. Most times, with the wrong information, they start to draw up a list of things that they can no longer do, like go after a promotion or start a family. Then they go through life shrunken and unrecognizable, not the person they once were. So to answer that intern’s question about why I work with persons living with HIV: I want to make HIV a non-issue,” he states.   Dr. Boyce hopes to see HIV disclosure become as acceptable as other chronic illnesses such as cancer or diabetes, where an entire family would work towards caring for the affected person, instead of alienating them. He also hopes to see more inclusion and tolerance towards persons living with HIV, especially those within the LGBTQI community.  “Until a gay or transgender person can walk the streets freely and not be jeered at by passers-by, we still have a long way to go. Until they can access treatment at any public facility without fear or judgment, we have a lot of work to do. It would take a lot of education to change the stigma and discrimination but there is absolutely no reason why another person’s life should be miserable because their expression is different to ours,” he commented.  He commends the work of FPATT in upholding the sexual and reproductive health rights of the LGBTQI community, through ensuring that they have a safe and non-judgmental environment for HIV and other STI tests. He says that the Medical Research Foundation values the great relationship that the two organizations have had for years, even as FPATT works towards becoming its own full-service antiretroviral treatment site for persons living with HIV.  

ngelie Chotalal, Clinic Co-ordinator, manages programmes for FPATT’s 4 static clinics across the country.

A Master and Matriarch among the Migrants

Never did she think that a job as Clinic Administrator would lead to a career that would change so many lives, but in 2007, Angelie Chotalal embarked on a path that would also change her life for good. Working at the Family Planning Association of Trinidad and Tobago (FPATT) in her late thirties, Angelie found joy in handling the administrative needs of the clinic, ensuring that the doctors and staff had all the resources to function at full capacity. She held that position for 3 years until she transferred into the vocation of Sessional Nurse, caring for the clients and clinic in a more hands-on role.  For the next 8 years, Angelie would devote her energy into education, becoming a Health and Family Life Education Master Trainer, as well as a Master Trainer in HIV Testing.  It was during this time that she also improved her bilingual skills; a decision that would prepare her for great success in the coming years.  “Hola! Como estás? Te ves bien,” she says as she greets a Venezuelan woman in the waiting area of the clinic. Her compassion is soothing and her smile is contagious. In her current role as Clinic Co-ordinator, Angelie has found herself having to be creative, innovative and still down-to-earth in the planning and execution of programmes for FPATT’s 4 static clinics across the country. The young migrant mothers of the clinic have come to know her as a matriarch, as she frequents the clinic floor always ready to attend to a new concern. “What makes them less than human?” Fleeing political oppression, lack of food and medicine and the downfall of the Venezuelan economy, over 40,000 Venezuelans have migrated to Trinidad to seek safer livelihoods. Many of them work to send most of their income home for the families they had to leave behind. “This here is my heartbeat. The work we do with the migrant community is dear to me because when I hear their stories, I know that there is so much more to be done. They are part of a population that has not received equal treatment. They’ve been put into a situation that they couldn’t expect and their only hope was to flee to this country where basic human rights are being withheld from them. What makes them less than human?” she asks, her visage pained with concern. Despite the influx of Venezuelans, Trinidad and Tobago’s migration policy has offered refugees very little access to healthcare and social services. However, FPATT’s mandate is to ensure that every person living within the borders of Trinidad and Tobago receive equal access to Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (SRH) and Angelie’s personal mission is to ensure that they receive the best treatment when they come to her clinic.  “In 2018, we started offering healthcare specifically for the migrants. We had to ensure that our staff were compatible with our vision, and it was more than being bilingual; we each had to be genuinely empathetic toward the community we were seeking to serve. We worked to remove bias, xenophobia and other ill perceptions from even our own lives,” she noted. “The community is so close knit, that word of our services spread quickly and very soon our clinic for migrants was up and running. They would come in and see that it was a safe space to share their experiences and we took the time to listen, because they wouldn’t get this safety anywhere else.”  Before the FPATT clinic, migrants who needed SRH healthcare have had to book appointments with private doctors who often charge more than the migrants can afford.  “They work 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, get enough income to take care of their families here and those they’ve left behind. We’ve visited homes that house up to 10 migrant families, but it’s merely a shack with no running water or space to sleep. And then COVID hit,” she pauses pensively. “Incomes disappeared and so did options for housing; many of them were left homeless, so women who were already vulnerable were now being exploited. Imagine, your landlord asks you to pay for your rent with sex and a month later, brings his friends to cash in on the same favour, all because he knows you have nowhere else to live.”  Taking SRH Services online FPATT has offered all their regular healthcare services including gender-based violence counselling, birth control and emergency contraception to the migrant community. When Trinidad and Tobago entered a lockdown due to COVID protocols in 2020, FPATT approached the United Nations Population Fund for sponsorship to launch TeleHealth, an online medical consultation programme specifically for the migrant community. Through TeleHealth, clients are able to book 30-minute consultations with a clinical doctor and have their concerns addressed, ailments diagnosed and medicine prescribed, over WhatsApp video call.   In January 2021, FPATT also hosted a webinar series patterned after IPPF’s One Curriculum but tailored to the needs of the migrant community. The series featured FPATT’s team of clinical staff as well as experts in the fields of nutrition, self-defence and gender-based violence. “The response to both programmes is tremendous. The online access works well for our clients and we have developed such close relationships with them that we would love to expand our healthcare, but funding is often our major issue. We need sponsors to come on board, see how the programmes impact the people and help us continue to serve,” she states.  Ms. Chotalal looks forward to working with the Family Planning Association and helping communities that need their services the most.

Kiamara Meneses

A confident and accessible place

Two clients of sexual and reproductive health counseling services agree that trust is one of the most valued aspects. Danitza Gonzales, the 28-year-old personal trainer, came to Inppares on the recommendation of a friend: “I felt great with the counseling. The same doctor gave me all the confidence to be able to tell her my issues and my doubts that are still taboo, she knew how to guide me”. Kiamara Meneses, 25, a sociologist, says that she found out about the institution through Facebook and when she arrived at counseling with her partner she felt confident: “We liked the way the explanation was provided and it was all very clear, so we kept coming back all of 2019, until 2020, because I was considering having a subdermal implant and I came to consult”, she commented. “What I liked the most about the counseling service was that there was no such luck of judging people, which had happened to me in other health facilities, where if I asked for a longer-lasting method, such as an implant or an IUD They put limitations on having children before or things like that. Here I understood that there are no restrictions to use a particular method and that seemed super important to me”, adds Kiamara. Among other aspects that the users highlight is the accessible price and the central location. “The cost seemed adequate to me, in addition to the treatment they gave me. So I stayed. When someone asks me where to go to seek contraceptive counseling or advice, I share the experience I have had, in addition to the fact that the place is very central and the price is very convenient,”says Danitza. “What I mainly like are the services Inppares has, in addition to counseling, the ease of accessing the methods, because they always have campaigns and also the HIV test; in addition to the Future Youth Center; so, it is a fairly comprehensive place and I would definitely recommend it. It contributes a lot to the lives of young people because information empowers. Young women can have a differentiated service that meets their needs, empowers them to make informed decisions about their bodies”, concludes Kiamara.  Danitza agrees that “Services like these have a great impact on the lives of women and men in order to make informed and responsible decisions; they should promote them more in schools and universities”.

 Hilyann Croes journalist and FPA client, with an active lifestyle and work schedule

“Shopping on the FPA online store makes me feel very in control and empowered”

Famia Planea Aruba (FPA) saw a gap in the market and developed its online store to better reach clients like Hilyann, a journalist, with an active lifestyle and work schedule.  FPA’s online store is open to members and non-members where they shop for their favorite FPA product in a worry- and hassle-free environment from the comfort of their own home, office, school or even on the go. Being able to order products online saves time and also supports those clients with limited access to transport.  “As a young professional, one of the challenges I often face is balancing my profession with my active lifestyle and practicing self-care. This is why I couldn’t be happier with FPA’s online store”, Hilyann says. The visually appealing online store is available in the local Aruban language, Papiamento. The site has been designed to provide quick access to various contraceptive methods, with supporting information to help clients make choices based on their needs. “It is so convenient and allows me to manage my time more efficiently, making it so much easier to be conscious of the necessary efforts with regards to my reproductive health. Above all, it allows me to focus on my personal goals, all while making the right choices when it comes to family planning”, she adds. Clients can browse a range of products and add their selections to the cart. At the check-out clients fill in their preferred time, date, and location for delivery. A confirmation email will be sent to the client while FPA starts to prepare the order for delivery.  “Shopping on the FPA online store makes me feel very in control and empowered. I hope that more people of all ages take advantage of this service. I hear far too often that people say they don’t have time, nobody has actually, but FPA is there for you. Take control of your sexual and reproductive health, empower yourself, be the boss of your time and your body”.

People header
03 May 2021

Appointment of IPPF Americas and the Caribbean Directors

IPPF is pleased to announce the appointment of Eugenia Lopez Uribe as Regional Director and Dona Da Costa Martinez as Deputy Regional Director of the Americas and Caribbean. They will be based in the Americas and the Caribbean Regional office (ACRO), based in Bogota, Colombia and Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, respectively.  IPPF would like to thank partner organizations for their continuous support during the transition phase, as well as to the IPPF transition team led by Anamaria Bejar who will return to her position as IPPF Global Director of Advocacy. Eugenia López Uribe – IPPF ACRO Regional Director Eugenia is an experienced advocate for gender equality and sexual and reproductive rights, promoting innovation in the delivery of health services from a human rights perspective. She began her professional career as a volunteer with the Gente Joven (Young people) Programme of MEXFAM, IPPF's Mexican member association.  She has worked with rural and indigenous people, adolescents, youth, LGBTQI+ populations, sex workers and women with HIV in Latin America and the Caribbean. For more than a decade she was the executive director of Balance, a sexual and reproductive rights NGO working on regional advocacy in favour of sexual rights. Internationally, Eugenia has engaged on the follow-up of the commitments of International Conference of Population and Development (ICPD), the Beijing Conference on Women’s Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women - CEDAW and UN General Assembly on AIDS.  She co-founded the Abortion Fund for Social Justice: MARIA, the first initiative of its kind in Latin America. Her experience includes ten years as part of the management team of the Integrated Model of Health Care for Rural Adolescents of the Mexican Social Security Institute - IMMS Oportunidades. Eugenia will be based in Bogotá - Colombia.  Dona Da Costa Martinez – IPPF ACRO Deputy Regional Director Dona began her work in sexual and reproductive health, thirty-five years ago, when she joined the Family Planning Association of Trinidad and Tobago – FPATT in 1985.   In her formative years in the Association, she was responsible for research, planning and evaluation and the development of programmes to ensure the achievement of the Association’s mission.  From 1990 she served as the Deputy Executive Director of the Association before taking on the mantle of Executive Director in 1999.   Under her stewardship, the Association expanded its work in many other areas with a focus on integrating sexual rights in all of its programmes.  This included expansion of its advocacy work in abortion and LGBTQI rights, comprehensive sexuality education, gender-based violence, HIV prevention and ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health services to most at risk populations including sex workers and adolescents.   She serves as Co-Chair of the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC), is the Chairperson of the Trinidad and Tobago Non-Communicable Diseases Alliance and serves on several other committees at the national, regional and international levels.   Dona is the holder of an Executive Master’s in Business Administration from the Institute of Business, University of the West Indies, Trinidad and Tobago. Dona will be based in Port of Spain.  Under new leadership, IPPF ACRO will continue to provide support and strengthen our Member Associations in the Americas and the Caribbean to ensure they can deliver quality sexual and reproductive healthcare to those in need - no matter what.

Richenella Dirks started at FPA as an intern over ten years ago

Providing information and contraceptive care to young people

Accessibility to information and contraceptives has always been a priority for Famia Planea Aruba (FPA), whether through the office, delivery service, or in schools.  For over fifteen years FPA has worked in partnership with one of the largest secondary schools on the island. The FPA team visits the school on a monthly basis to provide guidance, counseling, and contraceptive care to students and to help ensure they stay in school to complete their education.  “One of my first experiences providing comprehensive sex education, with FPA was at the EPB School during my education as a social worker, many years later I still very much enjoy this”, says Richenella, FPA’s Finance and IEC support staff. FPA’s client is at the heart of its healthcare provision. FPA staff work with students to build trust and ensure they feel safe to talk openly. This helps to provide a sense of consistency for the student, as well as efficiency for the team being familiar with specific students and cases. They are better able to notice if something changes, and if a student needs a referral to a medical doctor or other organization for additional treatment. “The consultations are always fun; you get a change of scenery by stepping out of the office. Over the years you see so many faces and still, somehow you manage to remember most of them. After just a few visits you can start to build a profile of most students, you can start to tell who the class clown is, the Mister Popular, the shy one, the loud one, and the one who just wants to take his time to avoid going back to class”, Richenella laughs.  

Dr. Stewart McKoy, sitting outside of the Beth Jacobs Family Clinic

"We had to go out more to meet people, educate them teach them the importance of sexual and reproductive health”

Dr. Stewart McKoy has dedicated his life to ensuring the needs of both men and women are equally represented in the provision of healthcare at the Jamaica Family Planning Association (JFPA). When Dr. McKoy returned to Jamaica from overseas medical studies in the 1980s, the frustration at the failure of many Jamaican males to use contraception was a continuing concern. This led to him making a strong case for vasectomies to be offered as part of JFPA’s contraceptive options. Whilst the initial response from local males was disheartening, Dr. McKoy took the grassroots approach to get the buy-in of males to consider contraception use. Getting men on board “Someone once said it’s only by varied reiteration that unfamiliar truths can be introduced to reluctant minds. We used to go out into the countryside and give talks. In those times, I came down heavily on men. I remember after one talk, when I was finished, the driver of the JFPA van said they [men] didn’t like what I was saying. I saw a bar outside and went, carried them in, and said drinks on me. By the second round they opened up and were receptive,” he said. The reception would form the catalyst he needed to ensure that men, too, benefitted from sexual and reproductive healthcare. Men were choosing vasectomies if they already had children and didn’t plan to have any more. In addition, Dr. McKoy was an instrumental voice in the Men’s Clinic that was formerly operated by JFPA and also encouraged the inclusion of women at the meetings, in order to increase male participation and uptake of healthcare. “When we as men get sick with our prostate it is women who are going to look after us. But we have to put interest in our own self to offset it before it puts us in that situation where we can’t help yourself. It came down to that and the males eventually started coming. The health education got out and men started confiding more in health services,” he said.   It could be a matter of life or death McKoy said it is important that women use contraception and take their sexual and reproductive health seriously. If neglected, Dr McKoy said it could be a matter of life or death. He refers to a case of a young mother who was complacent towards having pap smears and ended up dying a preventable death as a result of cervical cancer. “Over the years I saw the opportunity to do pap smears out of the clinic. The mobile unit gave us access to so many patients. We had persons who neglected to do it. One patient in particular - she was not yet 30 years old. She had three children and after every delivery, she was told by the hospital to do a pap smear. She didn’t do it and eventually got cervical cancer. When she was to do the pap smear, she didn’t come. One morning they brought her and had to lift her up out of the car. At that time doctors said they couldn’t do anything for her,” Dr. McKoy said while fighting back tears. “It wasn’t necessary. We had to go out more to meet people, educate them teach them the importance of sexual and reproductive health.” That experience was his driving force to continue the work in sexual and reproductive healthcare. Dr. McKoy said the message about family planning, sexual and reproductive health must be continued through education in community outreach projects.

IPPF and Member Associations in Jamaica and St. Vincent and Grenadines celebrate historic milestone for HIV prevention in the Caribbean
09 May 2024

IPPF celebrates historic milestone for HIV prevention in the Caribbean

Haz click aquí para leer este posicionamiento en español. Port of Spain, May 8.- The Jamaica Family Planning Association (JFPA), St. Vincent Planned Parenthood Association (SVGPPA) and the International Planned Parenthood Federation Regional Office in the Americas and the Caribbean celebrate Belize, Jamaica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines for receiving the World Health Organization’s certification for eliminating perinatal transmission* of HIV and Syphilis, a historic milestone for women and infants in the Caribbean. This significant achievement advances efforts to effectively prevent HIV transmission in our region.  We commend the commitment of governments, health professionals, civil society organizations and communities, including the Jamaica Family Planning Association (JFPA) and St. Vincent Planned Parenthood Association (SVGPPA), both IPPF Member Associations, to invest in adequate attention for HIV prevention and sexual and reproductive health and rights.     For Eugenia Lopez Uribe – IPPF Americas and Caribbean Regional Director, “This juncture presents an excellent opportunity to enhance HIV prevention strategies and to show how a well-done prenatal care, where women have access to all necessary tests and treatments, including HIV tests and medicines, works. It's a collective victory: for science, which has advanced and shows its efficiency, and for decision makers who adopt evidence-based responses to HIV."   JFPA and SVGPPA have been key in responding to HIV in their countries, as they have been working to integrate HIV and STI services into its overall family planning offering. JFPA provides counselling, testing and referral of pregnant women at their first ante-natal visit, while SVGPPA offers HIV/STI screening and counselling, both working together with strong HIV organizations on the ground. 

March News Round-Up
01 April 2024

March News Round-Up

IPPF ACRO participates in the C20 Conception Meeting in Brazil. Kamilah Morain, Director of Member Association Support and Development at ACRO, participated in the inaugural meeting of the C20 Engagement Group in Recife, Brazil. This group plans and proposes policies for the upcoming G20 forum, which will take place in November 2024, focusing on issues such as health and education. As the co-facilitator of the Women's Rights and Gender Equality working group, she will, on behalf of IPPF ACRO, seek to ensure that the voices of women and girls are heard by the G20 leaders. This is crucial because the G20 represents a large portion of the global economy and trade.   Profamilia ready to host the Seventh International Conference on Family Planning in November 2025. For the first time in history, the International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP) will be held in Latin America, and Profamilia Colombia will be a co-host! Alongside the William H. Gates Sr. Institute for Reproductive Health and Population and the Government of Colombia and the Valle del Lili Foundation, Profamilia will welcome thousands of family planning professionals from November 3rd to 6th, 2025, in Colombia. The ICFP serves as a gathering point for governments, institutions, researchers, activists, and professionals seeking to promote collaboration and innovation in sexual and reproductive health. On this occasion, Colombia has been chosen as the venue due to the government's commitment and the efforts of social movements that have resulted in significant advances in access to sexual and reproductive health for Colombian people. See you there!   Gestos succeeds in canceling the HIV and other STI testing requirement in the city of Lagoa do Carro, Brazil. Thanks to a complaint from Gestos' legal team, and in collaboration with Caop Cidadania and the Public Ministry of Carpina, the municipal government of Lagoa do Carro canceled the requirement to undergo HIV, Syphilis, and Hepatitis B and C testing in its contests. This significant victory for human rights and the advancement of sexual and reproductive health is a reminder that demanding STI test results is a discriminatory practice that violates human rights. Furthermore, in Brazil, the right to confidentiality is guaranteed by law. Congratulations to the Gestos team for their hard work in guaranteeing the rights of people living with HIV!   Kamala Harris visits a Planned Parenthood clinic and becomes the first Vice President of the United States to visit an abortion clinic. The sixth stop on Vice President Kamala Harris's "Fighting for Reproductive Freedom" Tour was a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic. It has been a great opportunity for the Vice President to see the great work that Planned Parenthood does every day to provide sexual and reproductive health care, including safe abortion. In the months leading up to the presidential elections, she has positioned herself as an advocate for access to abortion in a complicated context following the Supreme Court's recent decisions on this issue. "It is right and just that people have access to the health care they need," Kamala Harris said at a press conference.   If you want to receive SRHR news directly from the ground to your inbox, subscribe to our newsletter "Rising the Tide". Subscribe

08 August 2022

Technical Brief: Fulfilling the sexual and reproductive rights of women living with HIV, preventing coerced and forced sterilization

The purpose of this technical brief is to promote gender-transformative, rights-based and scientifically accurate information for advocacy and service-delivery to fulfil the sexual and reproductive rights of women, girls and people who have the capacity to become pregnant, who are living with HIV.  In doing so, we also aim to provide sufficient evidence to prevent sexual and reproductive rights violations, especially coerced and/or forced sterilization against those living with HIV. The technical brief documents that coerced and/or forced sterilization of women living with HIV is a persistent and serious human rights violation requiring urgent action. The brief reviews components of comprehensive sexual and reproductive health (SRH) service delivery and international medical guidance to uphold and fulfil the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women living with HIV to choose if and when to have children.  This brief is primarily intended to inform IPPF Member Associations, secretariat staff, and partners including other SRH service delivery organizations and stakeholders. The brief reinforces IPPF’s position and commitment to person-centred and rights-based HIV care that is integrated within a comprehensive package of SRH services. Download the technical brief below in English or Spanish. 

trinidad

Changing Mindsets Through Medicine & Motivation

“You work with people who have HIV? Why?”  That was the question asked to Dr. Gregory Boyce by the young intern that stood before him. He had come to the hospital ward to visit a client who was known to be living with HIV. He approached the intern at the desk and gave his name and designation. The intern looked at him, confused and somewhat amused and asked the question that he has neither forgotten, nor understood to this day.  However, this young intern’s question comes from a mindset that Dr. Boyce is working fervently to change. As Deputy Director of the Medical Research Foundation of Trinidad and Tobago (MRF), Dr. Boyce provides clinical as well as administrative support to a team of doctors and nurses whose daily vocation is to persons living with HIV. Due to MRF’s long-standing work in HIV research and healthcare, the Family Planning Association of Trinidad and Tobago (FPATT), has navigated many of its clients to Dr. Boyce and his team, especially clients from the LGBTQI community.  “Persons coming to us from key populations, have very layered needs. They are facing unique challenges in addition to living with the virus. There is still that myth that being HIV positive means that you will positively die. Added to that, there’s the discrimination that the community faces in every aspect of their lives on a daily basis. As a staff, we’ve had to seek special training to guide the way we interact with these clients so that we can meet all their needs appropriately and sensitively,” explains Dr. Boyce.  He continued “Apart from medical interventions which are needed to ensure that our clients continue to live healthy lives, we focus heavily on their psychosocial needs. It’s easy to think that because a client is physically healthy that they are also emotionally healthy. We have clients that won’t leave abusive relationships because they think no one else would accept them. We have other clients that are dealing with long-term medication fatigue because they have been taking pills for over 10 years. With that sometimes comes depression and other drug addictions, which is why it’s necessary for us to maintain open and honest relationships to address those accompanying issues.” Making HIV a non-issue Having worked with persons living with HIV for over 20 years, Dr. Boyce remembers the early days that led him to this specialization. He had worked at the Port of Spain General Hospital after graduating, during which time, medicine for persons living with HIV was expensive and out of reach for many. A few years later, through government programmes, medicine became more affordable, and treatment centers were opening up across the island. However, Dr. Boyce realized that the mortality rate had not changed by much. He wondered why people were still dying from a virus when medicine was easily accessible. That was when he decided to follow his heart and commit to helping persons with HIV understand that there is hope.  “That first conversation – giving a client the news that they’ve tested positive – is very important. We get to show them that HIV is not an impediment. Most times, with the wrong information, they start to draw up a list of things that they can no longer do, like go after a promotion or start a family. Then they go through life shrunken and unrecognizable, not the person they once were. So to answer that intern’s question about why I work with persons living with HIV: I want to make HIV a non-issue,” he states.   Dr. Boyce hopes to see HIV disclosure become as acceptable as other chronic illnesses such as cancer or diabetes, where an entire family would work towards caring for the affected person, instead of alienating them. He also hopes to see more inclusion and tolerance towards persons living with HIV, especially those within the LGBTQI community.  “Until a gay or transgender person can walk the streets freely and not be jeered at by passers-by, we still have a long way to go. Until they can access treatment at any public facility without fear or judgment, we have a lot of work to do. It would take a lot of education to change the stigma and discrimination but there is absolutely no reason why another person’s life should be miserable because their expression is different to ours,” he commented.  He commends the work of FPATT in upholding the sexual and reproductive health rights of the LGBTQI community, through ensuring that they have a safe and non-judgmental environment for HIV and other STI tests. He says that the Medical Research Foundation values the great relationship that the two organizations have had for years, even as FPATT works towards becoming its own full-service antiretroviral treatment site for persons living with HIV.  

ngelie Chotalal, Clinic Co-ordinator, manages programmes for FPATT’s 4 static clinics across the country.

A Master and Matriarch among the Migrants

Never did she think that a job as Clinic Administrator would lead to a career that would change so many lives, but in 2007, Angelie Chotalal embarked on a path that would also change her life for good. Working at the Family Planning Association of Trinidad and Tobago (FPATT) in her late thirties, Angelie found joy in handling the administrative needs of the clinic, ensuring that the doctors and staff had all the resources to function at full capacity. She held that position for 3 years until she transferred into the vocation of Sessional Nurse, caring for the clients and clinic in a more hands-on role.  For the next 8 years, Angelie would devote her energy into education, becoming a Health and Family Life Education Master Trainer, as well as a Master Trainer in HIV Testing.  It was during this time that she also improved her bilingual skills; a decision that would prepare her for great success in the coming years.  “Hola! Como estás? Te ves bien,” she says as she greets a Venezuelan woman in the waiting area of the clinic. Her compassion is soothing and her smile is contagious. In her current role as Clinic Co-ordinator, Angelie has found herself having to be creative, innovative and still down-to-earth in the planning and execution of programmes for FPATT’s 4 static clinics across the country. The young migrant mothers of the clinic have come to know her as a matriarch, as she frequents the clinic floor always ready to attend to a new concern. “What makes them less than human?” Fleeing political oppression, lack of food and medicine and the downfall of the Venezuelan economy, over 40,000 Venezuelans have migrated to Trinidad to seek safer livelihoods. Many of them work to send most of their income home for the families they had to leave behind. “This here is my heartbeat. The work we do with the migrant community is dear to me because when I hear their stories, I know that there is so much more to be done. They are part of a population that has not received equal treatment. They’ve been put into a situation that they couldn’t expect and their only hope was to flee to this country where basic human rights are being withheld from them. What makes them less than human?” she asks, her visage pained with concern. Despite the influx of Venezuelans, Trinidad and Tobago’s migration policy has offered refugees very little access to healthcare and social services. However, FPATT’s mandate is to ensure that every person living within the borders of Trinidad and Tobago receive equal access to Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (SRH) and Angelie’s personal mission is to ensure that they receive the best treatment when they come to her clinic.  “In 2018, we started offering healthcare specifically for the migrants. We had to ensure that our staff were compatible with our vision, and it was more than being bilingual; we each had to be genuinely empathetic toward the community we were seeking to serve. We worked to remove bias, xenophobia and other ill perceptions from even our own lives,” she noted. “The community is so close knit, that word of our services spread quickly and very soon our clinic for migrants was up and running. They would come in and see that it was a safe space to share their experiences and we took the time to listen, because they wouldn’t get this safety anywhere else.”  Before the FPATT clinic, migrants who needed SRH healthcare have had to book appointments with private doctors who often charge more than the migrants can afford.  “They work 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, get enough income to take care of their families here and those they’ve left behind. We’ve visited homes that house up to 10 migrant families, but it’s merely a shack with no running water or space to sleep. And then COVID hit,” she pauses pensively. “Incomes disappeared and so did options for housing; many of them were left homeless, so women who were already vulnerable were now being exploited. Imagine, your landlord asks you to pay for your rent with sex and a month later, brings his friends to cash in on the same favour, all because he knows you have nowhere else to live.”  Taking SRH Services online FPATT has offered all their regular healthcare services including gender-based violence counselling, birth control and emergency contraception to the migrant community. When Trinidad and Tobago entered a lockdown due to COVID protocols in 2020, FPATT approached the United Nations Population Fund for sponsorship to launch TeleHealth, an online medical consultation programme specifically for the migrant community. Through TeleHealth, clients are able to book 30-minute consultations with a clinical doctor and have their concerns addressed, ailments diagnosed and medicine prescribed, over WhatsApp video call.   In January 2021, FPATT also hosted a webinar series patterned after IPPF’s One Curriculum but tailored to the needs of the migrant community. The series featured FPATT’s team of clinical staff as well as experts in the fields of nutrition, self-defence and gender-based violence. “The response to both programmes is tremendous. The online access works well for our clients and we have developed such close relationships with them that we would love to expand our healthcare, but funding is often our major issue. We need sponsors to come on board, see how the programmes impact the people and help us continue to serve,” she states.  Ms. Chotalal looks forward to working with the Family Planning Association and helping communities that need their services the most.

Kiamara Meneses

A confident and accessible place

Two clients of sexual and reproductive health counseling services agree that trust is one of the most valued aspects. Danitza Gonzales, the 28-year-old personal trainer, came to Inppares on the recommendation of a friend: “I felt great with the counseling. The same doctor gave me all the confidence to be able to tell her my issues and my doubts that are still taboo, she knew how to guide me”. Kiamara Meneses, 25, a sociologist, says that she found out about the institution through Facebook and when she arrived at counseling with her partner she felt confident: “We liked the way the explanation was provided and it was all very clear, so we kept coming back all of 2019, until 2020, because I was considering having a subdermal implant and I came to consult”, she commented. “What I liked the most about the counseling service was that there was no such luck of judging people, which had happened to me in other health facilities, where if I asked for a longer-lasting method, such as an implant or an IUD They put limitations on having children before or things like that. Here I understood that there are no restrictions to use a particular method and that seemed super important to me”, adds Kiamara. Among other aspects that the users highlight is the accessible price and the central location. “The cost seemed adequate to me, in addition to the treatment they gave me. So I stayed. When someone asks me where to go to seek contraceptive counseling or advice, I share the experience I have had, in addition to the fact that the place is very central and the price is very convenient,”says Danitza. “What I mainly like are the services Inppares has, in addition to counseling, the ease of accessing the methods, because they always have campaigns and also the HIV test; in addition to the Future Youth Center; so, it is a fairly comprehensive place and I would definitely recommend it. It contributes a lot to the lives of young people because information empowers. Young women can have a differentiated service that meets their needs, empowers them to make informed decisions about their bodies”, concludes Kiamara.  Danitza agrees that “Services like these have a great impact on the lives of women and men in order to make informed and responsible decisions; they should promote them more in schools and universities”.

 Hilyann Croes journalist and FPA client, with an active lifestyle and work schedule

“Shopping on the FPA online store makes me feel very in control and empowered”

Famia Planea Aruba (FPA) saw a gap in the market and developed its online store to better reach clients like Hilyann, a journalist, with an active lifestyle and work schedule.  FPA’s online store is open to members and non-members where they shop for their favorite FPA product in a worry- and hassle-free environment from the comfort of their own home, office, school or even on the go. Being able to order products online saves time and also supports those clients with limited access to transport.  “As a young professional, one of the challenges I often face is balancing my profession with my active lifestyle and practicing self-care. This is why I couldn’t be happier with FPA’s online store”, Hilyann says. The visually appealing online store is available in the local Aruban language, Papiamento. The site has been designed to provide quick access to various contraceptive methods, with supporting information to help clients make choices based on their needs. “It is so convenient and allows me to manage my time more efficiently, making it so much easier to be conscious of the necessary efforts with regards to my reproductive health. Above all, it allows me to focus on my personal goals, all while making the right choices when it comes to family planning”, she adds. Clients can browse a range of products and add their selections to the cart. At the check-out clients fill in their preferred time, date, and location for delivery. A confirmation email will be sent to the client while FPA starts to prepare the order for delivery.  “Shopping on the FPA online store makes me feel very in control and empowered. I hope that more people of all ages take advantage of this service. I hear far too often that people say they don’t have time, nobody has actually, but FPA is there for you. Take control of your sexual and reproductive health, empower yourself, be the boss of your time and your body”.

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03 May 2021

Appointment of IPPF Americas and the Caribbean Directors

IPPF is pleased to announce the appointment of Eugenia Lopez Uribe as Regional Director and Dona Da Costa Martinez as Deputy Regional Director of the Americas and Caribbean. They will be based in the Americas and the Caribbean Regional office (ACRO), based in Bogota, Colombia and Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, respectively.  IPPF would like to thank partner organizations for their continuous support during the transition phase, as well as to the IPPF transition team led by Anamaria Bejar who will return to her position as IPPF Global Director of Advocacy. Eugenia López Uribe – IPPF ACRO Regional Director Eugenia is an experienced advocate for gender equality and sexual and reproductive rights, promoting innovation in the delivery of health services from a human rights perspective. She began her professional career as a volunteer with the Gente Joven (Young people) Programme of MEXFAM, IPPF's Mexican member association.  She has worked with rural and indigenous people, adolescents, youth, LGBTQI+ populations, sex workers and women with HIV in Latin America and the Caribbean. For more than a decade she was the executive director of Balance, a sexual and reproductive rights NGO working on regional advocacy in favour of sexual rights. Internationally, Eugenia has engaged on the follow-up of the commitments of International Conference of Population and Development (ICPD), the Beijing Conference on Women’s Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women - CEDAW and UN General Assembly on AIDS.  She co-founded the Abortion Fund for Social Justice: MARIA, the first initiative of its kind in Latin America. Her experience includes ten years as part of the management team of the Integrated Model of Health Care for Rural Adolescents of the Mexican Social Security Institute - IMMS Oportunidades. Eugenia will be based in Bogotá - Colombia.  Dona Da Costa Martinez – IPPF ACRO Deputy Regional Director Dona began her work in sexual and reproductive health, thirty-five years ago, when she joined the Family Planning Association of Trinidad and Tobago – FPATT in 1985.   In her formative years in the Association, she was responsible for research, planning and evaluation and the development of programmes to ensure the achievement of the Association’s mission.  From 1990 she served as the Deputy Executive Director of the Association before taking on the mantle of Executive Director in 1999.   Under her stewardship, the Association expanded its work in many other areas with a focus on integrating sexual rights in all of its programmes.  This included expansion of its advocacy work in abortion and LGBTQI rights, comprehensive sexuality education, gender-based violence, HIV prevention and ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health services to most at risk populations including sex workers and adolescents.   She serves as Co-Chair of the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC), is the Chairperson of the Trinidad and Tobago Non-Communicable Diseases Alliance and serves on several other committees at the national, regional and international levels.   Dona is the holder of an Executive Master’s in Business Administration from the Institute of Business, University of the West Indies, Trinidad and Tobago. Dona will be based in Port of Spain.  Under new leadership, IPPF ACRO will continue to provide support and strengthen our Member Associations in the Americas and the Caribbean to ensure they can deliver quality sexual and reproductive healthcare to those in need - no matter what.

Richenella Dirks started at FPA as an intern over ten years ago

Providing information and contraceptive care to young people

Accessibility to information and contraceptives has always been a priority for Famia Planea Aruba (FPA), whether through the office, delivery service, or in schools.  For over fifteen years FPA has worked in partnership with one of the largest secondary schools on the island. The FPA team visits the school on a monthly basis to provide guidance, counseling, and contraceptive care to students and to help ensure they stay in school to complete their education.  “One of my first experiences providing comprehensive sex education, with FPA was at the EPB School during my education as a social worker, many years later I still very much enjoy this”, says Richenella, FPA’s Finance and IEC support staff. FPA’s client is at the heart of its healthcare provision. FPA staff work with students to build trust and ensure they feel safe to talk openly. This helps to provide a sense of consistency for the student, as well as efficiency for the team being familiar with specific students and cases. They are better able to notice if something changes, and if a student needs a referral to a medical doctor or other organization for additional treatment. “The consultations are always fun; you get a change of scenery by stepping out of the office. Over the years you see so many faces and still, somehow you manage to remember most of them. After just a few visits you can start to build a profile of most students, you can start to tell who the class clown is, the Mister Popular, the shy one, the loud one, and the one who just wants to take his time to avoid going back to class”, Richenella laughs.  

Dr. Stewart McKoy, sitting outside of the Beth Jacobs Family Clinic

"We had to go out more to meet people, educate them teach them the importance of sexual and reproductive health”

Dr. Stewart McKoy has dedicated his life to ensuring the needs of both men and women are equally represented in the provision of healthcare at the Jamaica Family Planning Association (JFPA). When Dr. McKoy returned to Jamaica from overseas medical studies in the 1980s, the frustration at the failure of many Jamaican males to use contraception was a continuing concern. This led to him making a strong case for vasectomies to be offered as part of JFPA’s contraceptive options. Whilst the initial response from local males was disheartening, Dr. McKoy took the grassroots approach to get the buy-in of males to consider contraception use. Getting men on board “Someone once said it’s only by varied reiteration that unfamiliar truths can be introduced to reluctant minds. We used to go out into the countryside and give talks. In those times, I came down heavily on men. I remember after one talk, when I was finished, the driver of the JFPA van said they [men] didn’t like what I was saying. I saw a bar outside and went, carried them in, and said drinks on me. By the second round they opened up and were receptive,” he said. The reception would form the catalyst he needed to ensure that men, too, benefitted from sexual and reproductive healthcare. Men were choosing vasectomies if they already had children and didn’t plan to have any more. In addition, Dr. McKoy was an instrumental voice in the Men’s Clinic that was formerly operated by JFPA and also encouraged the inclusion of women at the meetings, in order to increase male participation and uptake of healthcare. “When we as men get sick with our prostate it is women who are going to look after us. But we have to put interest in our own self to offset it before it puts us in that situation where we can’t help yourself. It came down to that and the males eventually started coming. The health education got out and men started confiding more in health services,” he said.   It could be a matter of life or death McKoy said it is important that women use contraception and take their sexual and reproductive health seriously. If neglected, Dr McKoy said it could be a matter of life or death. He refers to a case of a young mother who was complacent towards having pap smears and ended up dying a preventable death as a result of cervical cancer. “Over the years I saw the opportunity to do pap smears out of the clinic. The mobile unit gave us access to so many patients. We had persons who neglected to do it. One patient in particular - she was not yet 30 years old. She had three children and after every delivery, she was told by the hospital to do a pap smear. She didn’t do it and eventually got cervical cancer. When she was to do the pap smear, she didn’t come. One morning they brought her and had to lift her up out of the car. At that time doctors said they couldn’t do anything for her,” Dr. McKoy said while fighting back tears. “It wasn’t necessary. We had to go out more to meet people, educate them teach them the importance of sexual and reproductive health.” That experience was his driving force to continue the work in sexual and reproductive healthcare. Dr. McKoy said the message about family planning, sexual and reproductive health must be continued through education in community outreach projects.

IPPF and Member Associations in Jamaica and St. Vincent and Grenadines celebrate historic milestone for HIV prevention in the Caribbean
09 May 2024

IPPF celebrates historic milestone for HIV prevention in the Caribbean

Haz click aquí para leer este posicionamiento en español. Port of Spain, May 8.- The Jamaica Family Planning Association (JFPA), St. Vincent Planned Parenthood Association (SVGPPA) and the International Planned Parenthood Federation Regional Office in the Americas and the Caribbean celebrate Belize, Jamaica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines for receiving the World Health Organization’s certification for eliminating perinatal transmission* of HIV and Syphilis, a historic milestone for women and infants in the Caribbean. This significant achievement advances efforts to effectively prevent HIV transmission in our region.  We commend the commitment of governments, health professionals, civil society organizations and communities, including the Jamaica Family Planning Association (JFPA) and St. Vincent Planned Parenthood Association (SVGPPA), both IPPF Member Associations, to invest in adequate attention for HIV prevention and sexual and reproductive health and rights.     For Eugenia Lopez Uribe – IPPF Americas and Caribbean Regional Director, “This juncture presents an excellent opportunity to enhance HIV prevention strategies and to show how a well-done prenatal care, where women have access to all necessary tests and treatments, including HIV tests and medicines, works. It's a collective victory: for science, which has advanced and shows its efficiency, and for decision makers who adopt evidence-based responses to HIV."   JFPA and SVGPPA have been key in responding to HIV in their countries, as they have been working to integrate HIV and STI services into its overall family planning offering. JFPA provides counselling, testing and referral of pregnant women at their first ante-natal visit, while SVGPPA offers HIV/STI screening and counselling, both working together with strong HIV organizations on the ground. 

March News Round-Up
01 April 2024

March News Round-Up

IPPF ACRO participates in the C20 Conception Meeting in Brazil. Kamilah Morain, Director of Member Association Support and Development at ACRO, participated in the inaugural meeting of the C20 Engagement Group in Recife, Brazil. This group plans and proposes policies for the upcoming G20 forum, which will take place in November 2024, focusing on issues such as health and education. As the co-facilitator of the Women's Rights and Gender Equality working group, she will, on behalf of IPPF ACRO, seek to ensure that the voices of women and girls are heard by the G20 leaders. This is crucial because the G20 represents a large portion of the global economy and trade.   Profamilia ready to host the Seventh International Conference on Family Planning in November 2025. For the first time in history, the International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP) will be held in Latin America, and Profamilia Colombia will be a co-host! Alongside the William H. Gates Sr. Institute for Reproductive Health and Population and the Government of Colombia and the Valle del Lili Foundation, Profamilia will welcome thousands of family planning professionals from November 3rd to 6th, 2025, in Colombia. The ICFP serves as a gathering point for governments, institutions, researchers, activists, and professionals seeking to promote collaboration and innovation in sexual and reproductive health. On this occasion, Colombia has been chosen as the venue due to the government's commitment and the efforts of social movements that have resulted in significant advances in access to sexual and reproductive health for Colombian people. See you there!   Gestos succeeds in canceling the HIV and other STI testing requirement in the city of Lagoa do Carro, Brazil. Thanks to a complaint from Gestos' legal team, and in collaboration with Caop Cidadania and the Public Ministry of Carpina, the municipal government of Lagoa do Carro canceled the requirement to undergo HIV, Syphilis, and Hepatitis B and C testing in its contests. This significant victory for human rights and the advancement of sexual and reproductive health is a reminder that demanding STI test results is a discriminatory practice that violates human rights. Furthermore, in Brazil, the right to confidentiality is guaranteed by law. Congratulations to the Gestos team for their hard work in guaranteeing the rights of people living with HIV!   Kamala Harris visits a Planned Parenthood clinic and becomes the first Vice President of the United States to visit an abortion clinic. The sixth stop on Vice President Kamala Harris's "Fighting for Reproductive Freedom" Tour was a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic. It has been a great opportunity for the Vice President to see the great work that Planned Parenthood does every day to provide sexual and reproductive health care, including safe abortion. In the months leading up to the presidential elections, she has positioned herself as an advocate for access to abortion in a complicated context following the Supreme Court's recent decisions on this issue. "It is right and just that people have access to the health care they need," Kamala Harris said at a press conference.   If you want to receive SRHR news directly from the ground to your inbox, subscribe to our newsletter "Rising the Tide". Subscribe

08 August 2022

Technical Brief: Fulfilling the sexual and reproductive rights of women living with HIV, preventing coerced and forced sterilization

The purpose of this technical brief is to promote gender-transformative, rights-based and scientifically accurate information for advocacy and service-delivery to fulfil the sexual and reproductive rights of women, girls and people who have the capacity to become pregnant, who are living with HIV.  In doing so, we also aim to provide sufficient evidence to prevent sexual and reproductive rights violations, especially coerced and/or forced sterilization against those living with HIV. The technical brief documents that coerced and/or forced sterilization of women living with HIV is a persistent and serious human rights violation requiring urgent action. The brief reviews components of comprehensive sexual and reproductive health (SRH) service delivery and international medical guidance to uphold and fulfil the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women living with HIV to choose if and when to have children.  This brief is primarily intended to inform IPPF Member Associations, secretariat staff, and partners including other SRH service delivery organizations and stakeholders. The brief reinforces IPPF’s position and commitment to person-centred and rights-based HIV care that is integrated within a comprehensive package of SRH services. Download the technical brief below in English or Spanish.