Sensitising communities to tackle HIV and gender-based violence

Tunapuna-Piarco represents the region with the highest level of Domestic Violence Hotline reports as well as reports made to the Police. This is according to combined statistical data provided by the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS), the Ministry of Health and the Office of the Prime Minister, Gender Affairs Division. This was revealed by the Office of the Prime Minister Gender and Child Affairs as the reason for choosing to host a Community Sensitisation Forum on Gender-Based Violence and HIV on Saturday 12 May, 2018 at the Tunapuna Community Centre.

The Ministry of Social Development and Family Services, as a key Ministry with the mandate to empower and transform lives through a safety net system of grants and services, attended the event and hosted an information booth to highlight its suite of available social services. Aileen Clarke, Coordinator of the Ministry’s HIV/AIDS Coordinating Unit also took the opportunity to promote the Unit’s HIV/AIDS Advocacy Campaign with a photo session at the Ministry’s information booth.

This pilot outreach targeted persons infected and affected by HIV and AIDS, adults, youth, and children in the community, and persons affected by gender-based violence(GBV). It provided a platform for dialogue and information sharing on the dual epidemics of HIV and Gender-based violence with the aim towards the prevention of both types of outcomes.

The Forum featured HIV and GBV as interlinked dual epidemics plaguing our society today. It featured presentations by Ms Krista Ali of the Children’s Authority, Ms Asha Wilson of the Coalition Against Domestic Violence as well as Mr Adrian Alexander of the Caribbean Umbrella Body for Restorative Behaviour, among others. Some of the topics highlighted were: how to prevent GBV as well as get help, HIV and GBV and coping with an HIV Positive Test Result.

During the Forum it was noted that fear of violence and other negative social outcomes can act as barriers to women’s ability to access HIV prevention tools and services. Violence and trauma can lead to lower adherence to treatment, lower CD4 Counts and higher viral loads. Violence can also occur as a result of HIV status for example violence arising out of disclosing one’s status to a partner.

In his presentation, Mr Adrian Alexander of the Caribbean Umbrella Body for Restorative Behaviour, highlighted that sexual violence against men and boys is also a significant problem. Rape and other forms of sexual coercion directed against men and boys take place in a variety of settings including the home, the workplace, school, on the streets, in the military, in prisons etc. He also stated that official statistics may underrepresent the number of male rape victims since male victims may be even less likely to report sexual violence than female victims.

During his address to participants of the Forum, Member of Parliament for Tunapuna, the Honourable Esmond Forde, stressed on the need for education and sensitisation because he stated, “Without education and without empowerment we will lose the fight against HIV.”

Minister of State, Office of the Prime Minister, the Honourable Ayanna Webster-Roy, delivered the feature address and promised more support for victims of GBV namely the commissioning of alternative spaces for housing victims of GBV.

The Ministry of Social Development and Family Services was pleased to attend the Community Sensitisation Forum on Gender-Based Violence and HIV. The Forum was as a result of collaborative efforts by the Office of the Prime Minister Gender and Child Affairs, the National AIDS Coordinating Committee, the Member of Parliament for Tunapuna, the Tunapuna-Piarco Regional Corporation, as well as various NGOs.

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