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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

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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.

Dr. Rashida Daisley is the 31-year-old Clinical Director of the Barbados Family Planning Association (BFPA)

“I have a passion for working with key populations"

Dr. Rashida Daisley is the 31-year-old Clinical Director of the Barbados Family Planning Association (BFPA) and is also the president of the Barbados Association of Endometriosis and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (BAEP). “I have a passion for working with key populations and that’s what lead me to work at BFPA,” She says and takes pride in BFPA's continued leadership of sexual and reproductive health services in Barbados. Offering a spectrum of gynecological care while also conducting specialized clinics, steadily expanding its practice to include more general services including antenatal care. There is a men’s clinic that addresses both SRH and physical and emotional wellbeing while BFPA’s surgical clinic offers minor surgeries such as hernia repair, lumpectomies, and vasectomies. Despite funding challenges, BFPA has committed to providing critical support to the under-served LGBTQ+ community in Barbados by partnering with NGO - Sexuality, Health and Empowerment (SHE) to provide affordable, high quality and inclusive health services to lesbians, bisexual and queer women, as well as non-binary and transgender persons - an effort spearheaded personally by Dr. Daisley, while also supporting pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEp) and STI clinics at Equals Barbados, another LBGTQ+ organization on the island.   COVID-19 and filling the gaps Dr. Daisley says she is pleased that clinical services were able to continue throughout the pandemic, unfortunately, COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on Barbados’ economy and society. As a tourism-dependent nation, a large proportion of the Barbadian workforce became unemployed in a very short period which in turn negatively affected the ability of marginalized persons to access basic services or even basic hygiene products. BFPA sought funding and donations to fill this gap and was able to secure funding from international organizations such as UNFPA, as well as donations of sanitary items from the Lady Box Project, a local NGO aimed at ending period poverty.  With funding from IPPF assisting in the provision of services to key populations such as persons living with HIV, men who have sex with men, sex workers, and LGBTQ+ persons. The allocation of funds to provide services to these groups allowed BFPA the financial space to direct its efforts to their other clients. Perhaps surprisingly, a relatively large subset of BFPA’s clients are older persons.  “The majority of people that BFPA interacts with are pretty open but that is probably because the people who seek out BFPA are already open-minded enough to access services at an organization with the words ‘family planning’”, Dr. Daisley laughed, “we do get a lot of referrals.” Perhaps surprisingly, a relatively large subset of BFPA’s clients are older people, many of whom started coming to BFPA as young people, while a small number of older persons do still seek out services because they are sexually active. Unfortunately, they grew up in a social climate where sexual and reproductive health education was virtually non-existent and the work to provide them better access is ongoing.  Dr. Daisley explains that the older population often do not think that they need to see the doctor about their sexual activity because there is no possibility of pregnancy. They are also not aware of the breadth of STI testing available. “When I ask them when was their last STI test, they usually say a few years ago at a health fair.” When probed, many of them disclose that they have only ever been tested for HIV and are not aware of many of the other STIs. In contrast, younger persons tend to have a healthier and more informed approach to sex and sexuality. Dr. Daisley observes that there is an increase in young people coming to be tested with their partners, and she attributes this in part to the important work that the BFPA’s Youth Advocacy Movement has done over the years, and essential to the progress of comprehensive sexual education.     

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The Migrant Experience: “They understand us and that is so hard to find”

Three million Venezuelans, fleeing a national crisis of economic depression and political oppression have found themselves seeking refuge in Latin America and the neighbouring islands of the Caribbean. About 40,000 of those have come to Trinidad and Tobago’s shores, with the hopes of finding a better life. Anything would be different from what they have left behind.  Neighbourhoods that once echoed the voices of playing children, were now riddled with the sounds of gunshots. Business places with broken store fronts, empty grocery and pharmacy shelves, elderly persons homeless and impoverished. Those with well-paying jobs could no longer make enough money to feed their families so walking the streets in your own neighbourhood put you at risk of kidnapping for menial ransoms.  This was the situation in Cumana Sucre that caused Marina Lopez to flee with her husband and two daughters in 2018. She was a preschool teacher and a good one at that. She loved the interaction she had with her students, seeing them grow in both knowledge and stature in their formative years, but it wasn’t enough to allay her fears of her own family’s survival.  As persons living with HIV, Marina and her teenaged daughter depended on constant access to medicine and healthcare, neither of which was still accessible. With daughters in tow, Marina and her husband braved the waters in search of new life in Trinidad.  About the same time, Ana Camacho, a young mother with dreams of migrating to Canada, said goodbye to her teary-eyed mother, sisters and 12-year-old daughter. She once held a good job as an administrator in Anaco, Venezuela, but when the company closed, she could no longer make the money needed to provide. A life in Canada seemed very promising and she and a friend decided that they would work for 3 months in Trinidad to gather the funds for the move up North. However, when she gained employment in Trinidad, her mother became ill and she was forced to postpone her plans and settle on the island in order to continue working.   “Everyone was so friendly and treated us like people” Both Marina and Ana can vividly recount the experiences that brought them to Trinidad 3 years ago. Today, they are both clients of the Family Planning Association of Trinidad and Tobago (FPATT) receiving care to meet their varying sexual and reproductive health needs.  “I was told about the Clinic from the UNHCR. They suggested that my daughter and I come here for treatment. When we got here everyone was so friendly and treated us like people. They understand us and that is so hard to find. They also referred us to the hospital in San Fernando for further treatment and it has been great since. We feel very comfortable here,” Marina disclosed. For 34-year-old Ana, her experience at FPATT is an interesting one. “When I first heard about the Clinic, I thought I would come in for a pap smear. I was in a new country, working and sending what I made back home for my family. I didn’t want to risk getting sick so I booked an appointment to get the test. When I came in, the nurses asked me if I was pregnant, and I said no, only to find out that I was. I was shocked, but I knew that the doctors and nurses at the clinic are good people and would take care of me during pregnancy. My son is now 14 months and now I come in for my contraceptive shot. I bring my son with me and everyone treats him like their own,” she says.  Ana was also a participant in the webinar series hosted by FPATT in January 2021. The 8-module Zoom series was based on IPPF’s One Curriculum, but designed to meet the specific needs of the migrant community. Although the series covered many topics including Nutrition, Gender-Based Violence and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights, the one module that stood out for Ana was Self Defense.  “One day I was on my way to work in a taxi and I realized that the driver was not taking the route that other drivers do. I asked him where he was going and he wouldn’t answer me. I got very scared because I was in the taxi by myself. I started to shout at him and he still wouldn’t answer me until finally he stopped and I ran out of the taxi. I went to a police station and the officer asked me what I was doing alone in the taxi. I told him that I was trying to get to work. After that, I never worked again. It’s too risky. I wish I had seen that self-defense class before that evening,” she said.  Many migrants have had similar experiences to that of Ana’s. Incidences of sexual exploitation, gender-based violence, and xenophobia are rampant among the women in the community and so they are grateful for the refuge they find at FPATT. “In here, they genuinely look out for us,” Ana says, “and that’s different from how we are treated when we walk the street. They live up to their name as Family.”  

YAM member Millenia Mathurinand and Youth Liaison Officer Shashlee Pierre Louis receiving award
08 June 2021

St. Lucia YAM Awarded Outstanding Youth Organization

The Youth Advocacy Movement (YAM) of St. Lucia Planned Parenthood Association (SLPPA) was recently recognised by the St. Lucia Government - Ministry of Youth Development and Sport, they received an award for Outstanding Youth Organization, which is given to an outstanding organization/group which has for the past 2 years achieved community, national or regional recognition in promoting youth development through its programmes and or policies. Currently, the organization is conducting exciting grassroots initiatives in Saint Lucia, such as youth training programmes within under-served communities island-wide and tackling a wide range of issues such as parenting, self-awareness, and gender-based violence. Now more than ever we support and encourage our young leaders as they educate and innovate in their communities, making sexual and reproductive education and health more accessible.  Follow them at www.instagram.com/yam_slu SLPPA aims to promote family welfare and reduce the incidence of unwanted pregnancies, particularly among adolescents, through a strengthened family life education programme and quality sexual and reproductive health (SRH) care services that complement government provision.

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.

Dr. Rashida Daisley is the 31-year-old Clinical Director of the Barbados Family Planning Association (BFPA)

“I have a passion for working with key populations"

Dr. Rashida Daisley is the 31-year-old Clinical Director of the Barbados Family Planning Association (BFPA) and is also the president of the Barbados Association of Endometriosis and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (BAEP). “I have a passion for working with key populations and that’s what lead me to work at BFPA,” She says and takes pride in BFPA's continued leadership of sexual and reproductive health services in Barbados. Offering a spectrum of gynecological care while also conducting specialized clinics, steadily expanding its practice to include more general services including antenatal care. There is a men’s clinic that addresses both SRH and physical and emotional wellbeing while BFPA’s surgical clinic offers minor surgeries such as hernia repair, lumpectomies, and vasectomies. Despite funding challenges, BFPA has committed to providing critical support to the under-served LGBTQ+ community in Barbados by partnering with NGO - Sexuality, Health and Empowerment (SHE) to provide affordable, high quality and inclusive health services to lesbians, bisexual and queer women, as well as non-binary and transgender persons - an effort spearheaded personally by Dr. Daisley, while also supporting pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEp) and STI clinics at Equals Barbados, another LBGTQ+ organization on the island.   COVID-19 and filling the gaps Dr. Daisley says she is pleased that clinical services were able to continue throughout the pandemic, unfortunately, COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on Barbados’ economy and society. As a tourism-dependent nation, a large proportion of the Barbadian workforce became unemployed in a very short period which in turn negatively affected the ability of marginalized persons to access basic services or even basic hygiene products. BFPA sought funding and donations to fill this gap and was able to secure funding from international organizations such as UNFPA, as well as donations of sanitary items from the Lady Box Project, a local NGO aimed at ending period poverty.  With funding from IPPF assisting in the provision of services to key populations such as persons living with HIV, men who have sex with men, sex workers, and LGBTQ+ persons. The allocation of funds to provide services to these groups allowed BFPA the financial space to direct its efforts to their other clients. Perhaps surprisingly, a relatively large subset of BFPA’s clients are older persons.  “The majority of people that BFPA interacts with are pretty open but that is probably because the people who seek out BFPA are already open-minded enough to access services at an organization with the words ‘family planning’”, Dr. Daisley laughed, “we do get a lot of referrals.” Perhaps surprisingly, a relatively large subset of BFPA’s clients are older people, many of whom started coming to BFPA as young people, while a small number of older persons do still seek out services because they are sexually active. Unfortunately, they grew up in a social climate where sexual and reproductive health education was virtually non-existent and the work to provide them better access is ongoing.  Dr. Daisley explains that the older population often do not think that they need to see the doctor about their sexual activity because there is no possibility of pregnancy. They are also not aware of the breadth of STI testing available. “When I ask them when was their last STI test, they usually say a few years ago at a health fair.” When probed, many of them disclose that they have only ever been tested for HIV and are not aware of many of the other STIs. In contrast, younger persons tend to have a healthier and more informed approach to sex and sexuality. Dr. Daisley observes that there is an increase in young people coming to be tested with their partners, and she attributes this in part to the important work that the BFPA’s Youth Advocacy Movement has done over the years, and essential to the progress of comprehensive sexual education.     

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The Migrant Experience: “They understand us and that is so hard to find”

Three million Venezuelans, fleeing a national crisis of economic depression and political oppression have found themselves seeking refuge in Latin America and the neighbouring islands of the Caribbean. About 40,000 of those have come to Trinidad and Tobago’s shores, with the hopes of finding a better life. Anything would be different from what they have left behind.  Neighbourhoods that once echoed the voices of playing children, were now riddled with the sounds of gunshots. Business places with broken store fronts, empty grocery and pharmacy shelves, elderly persons homeless and impoverished. Those with well-paying jobs could no longer make enough money to feed their families so walking the streets in your own neighbourhood put you at risk of kidnapping for menial ransoms.  This was the situation in Cumana Sucre that caused Marina Lopez to flee with her husband and two daughters in 2018. She was a preschool teacher and a good one at that. She loved the interaction she had with her students, seeing them grow in both knowledge and stature in their formative years, but it wasn’t enough to allay her fears of her own family’s survival.  As persons living with HIV, Marina and her teenaged daughter depended on constant access to medicine and healthcare, neither of which was still accessible. With daughters in tow, Marina and her husband braved the waters in search of new life in Trinidad.  About the same time, Ana Camacho, a young mother with dreams of migrating to Canada, said goodbye to her teary-eyed mother, sisters and 12-year-old daughter. She once held a good job as an administrator in Anaco, Venezuela, but when the company closed, she could no longer make the money needed to provide. A life in Canada seemed very promising and she and a friend decided that they would work for 3 months in Trinidad to gather the funds for the move up North. However, when she gained employment in Trinidad, her mother became ill and she was forced to postpone her plans and settle on the island in order to continue working.   “Everyone was so friendly and treated us like people” Both Marina and Ana can vividly recount the experiences that brought them to Trinidad 3 years ago. Today, they are both clients of the Family Planning Association of Trinidad and Tobago (FPATT) receiving care to meet their varying sexual and reproductive health needs.  “I was told about the Clinic from the UNHCR. They suggested that my daughter and I come here for treatment. When we got here everyone was so friendly and treated us like people. They understand us and that is so hard to find. They also referred us to the hospital in San Fernando for further treatment and it has been great since. We feel very comfortable here,” Marina disclosed. For 34-year-old Ana, her experience at FPATT is an interesting one. “When I first heard about the Clinic, I thought I would come in for a pap smear. I was in a new country, working and sending what I made back home for my family. I didn’t want to risk getting sick so I booked an appointment to get the test. When I came in, the nurses asked me if I was pregnant, and I said no, only to find out that I was. I was shocked, but I knew that the doctors and nurses at the clinic are good people and would take care of me during pregnancy. My son is now 14 months and now I come in for my contraceptive shot. I bring my son with me and everyone treats him like their own,” she says.  Ana was also a participant in the webinar series hosted by FPATT in January 2021. The 8-module Zoom series was based on IPPF’s One Curriculum, but designed to meet the specific needs of the migrant community. Although the series covered many topics including Nutrition, Gender-Based Violence and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights, the one module that stood out for Ana was Self Defense.  “One day I was on my way to work in a taxi and I realized that the driver was not taking the route that other drivers do. I asked him where he was going and he wouldn’t answer me. I got very scared because I was in the taxi by myself. I started to shout at him and he still wouldn’t answer me until finally he stopped and I ran out of the taxi. I went to a police station and the officer asked me what I was doing alone in the taxi. I told him that I was trying to get to work. After that, I never worked again. It’s too risky. I wish I had seen that self-defense class before that evening,” she said.  Many migrants have had similar experiences to that of Ana’s. Incidences of sexual exploitation, gender-based violence, and xenophobia are rampant among the women in the community and so they are grateful for the refuge they find at FPATT. “In here, they genuinely look out for us,” Ana says, “and that’s different from how we are treated when we walk the street. They live up to their name as Family.”  

YAM member Millenia Mathurinand and Youth Liaison Officer Shashlee Pierre Louis receiving award
08 June 2021

St. Lucia YAM Awarded Outstanding Youth Organization

The Youth Advocacy Movement (YAM) of St. Lucia Planned Parenthood Association (SLPPA) was recently recognised by the St. Lucia Government - Ministry of Youth Development and Sport, they received an award for Outstanding Youth Organization, which is given to an outstanding organization/group which has for the past 2 years achieved community, national or regional recognition in promoting youth development through its programmes and or policies. Currently, the organization is conducting exciting grassroots initiatives in Saint Lucia, such as youth training programmes within under-served communities island-wide and tackling a wide range of issues such as parenting, self-awareness, and gender-based violence. Now more than ever we support and encourage our young leaders as they educate and innovate in their communities, making sexual and reproductive education and health more accessible.  Follow them at www.instagram.com/yam_slu SLPPA aims to promote family welfare and reduce the incidence of unwanted pregnancies, particularly among adolescents, through a strengthened family life education programme and quality sexual and reproductive health (SRH) care services that complement government provision.