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Humanitarian response team, Fiji.
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IPPF’s localized approach to humanitarian emergencies is led by our Member Associations' response teams and whenever possible, we deploy local photographers.
Doctor
story

| 24 June 2021

Changing mindsets through medicine and motivation

“You work with people who have HIV? Why?” That was the question Dr. Gregory Boyce was asked 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 and administrative support to a team of doctors and nurses providing care to their clients who are 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 referred many clients to Dr. Boyce and his team, and especially clients from the LGBTI+ community.   Providing specialist care and support  “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.   “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  Dr Boyce has been committed to providing treatment and care to clients living with HIV for over 20 years. 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 centres 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 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 LGBTI+ 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 commends the work of FPATT in upholding the sexual and reproductive health and rights of the LGBTI+ community, through ensuring that they have a safe and non-judgmental environment for treatment and care. 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.    

Doctor
story

| 17 May 2022

Changing mindsets through medicine and motivation

“You work with people who have HIV? Why?” That was the question Dr. Gregory Boyce was asked 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 and administrative support to a team of doctors and nurses providing care to their clients who are 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 referred many clients to Dr. Boyce and his team, and especially clients from the LGBTI+ community.   Providing specialist care and support  “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.   “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  Dr Boyce has been committed to providing treatment and care to clients living with HIV for over 20 years. 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 centres 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 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 LGBTI+ 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 commends the work of FPATT in upholding the sexual and reproductive health and rights of the LGBTI+ community, through ensuring that they have a safe and non-judgmental environment for treatment and care. 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.    

Healthcare worker
story

| 24 June 2021

Ensuring care for Trinidad and Tobago's LGBTI+ community

Public perceptions, a lack of education, and government policies contribute to the barriers and challenges to achieving equality for all. In a country as diverse as Trinidad and Tobago, this is especially acute for certain key populations, including the LGBTI+ community.  For Brandy Rodriguez, Healthcare Navigator at the Family Planning Association of Trinidad and Tobago (FPATT), the struggle is both real and personal. In 1999, Brandy began her transition to womanhood and since 2006 has been working with FPATT in their HIV programme for the LGBTI+ community.    “Back in 2004, very little was said about HIV infection, transmission and prevention. In fact, if there was any information, it was misconstrued and meant to stigmatize the LGBTI+ community. I was fairly new to the transgender community, so I made it a mission to research and find out the truths behind HIV and how I could protect myself. I then felt like I had to share what I found with others who were searching as well,” she said.  Overcoming prejudice and stigma   That’s when FPATT asked Brandy to join their team in educating the LGBTI+ community on the types of healthcare available. Stigma surrounding the community forced many to stay hidden and avoid seeking care. Even if a member of the LGBTI+ community wanted to test for their HIV status, they would never dare to go into a public health centre, because of the fear of being judged by the healthcare professionals.    “It’s a simple case of this. When a transgender or non-binary person walks into a health centre or hospital, and the triage nurse has to fill in a form that asks for gender, the only two options there are male and female. So usually, the non-binary person knows that if they want to access that healthcare, free of judgement, they would have to dress as the gender that would bring less attention. At the end of the day, the healthcare provider does not receive accurate information about the client, and the client doesn’t receive the scope of assessment and treatment that may be necessary. So part of what I do, is to simply accompany the client to the appointment so that it’s a less stressful experience and they don’t feel like they are alone,” says Brandy.   The importance of access to HIV treatment and care Apart from a great lack of healthcare professionals that are willing to treat the LGBTI+ community non-judgementally, the community also lacks social support. Most of the members of the community face barriers to housing and employment, which often means earning a livelihood through sex work. Over 95% of skilled and employable persons within the LGBTI+ community have turned to sex work because they are constantly denied employment within other industries.   “When I began my transition, I was fortunate to have the support of my family; they understood my heart and my need to be my authentic self. Not everyone has that support and so some either migrate or are left homeless because of the fact. Having to work within the sex industry means that they are now at greater risk for HIV or other STIs. My job as an Educator and Navigator is to promote condom use and ensure that they make use of FPATT’s regular HIV testing. If they do test positive, we then have that conversation about U=U, which means that if they [their HIV viral load] are undetectable, they will be untransferable, and then get them to that place of undetectability.”    Brandy explains that being undetectable means that the client’s viral load is suppressed, and they are living healthy lives. The team works hard to ensure clients living with HIV enrol in the FPATT Programme, which supports the importance of adhering to consistent treatment, healthy eating, and rest. As well as testing, the Programme offers sexual and reproductive health education on prevention against STIs and both group and one-to-one sessions to anyone who needs it.  Advocating for support  FPATT has, for many years, advocated for the sexual and reproductive rights of the LGBTI+ community, ensuring that it remains a safe place for HIV testing and counselling. It holds a vision of a world where gender or sexuality are no longer a source of inequality or stigma.   FPATT is poised to become a full-service HIV treatment site, offering antiretroviral treatment as well as psychosocial services for persons affected by HIV. FPATT’s goal is to stop discrimination and stigma against persons living with HIV and ultimately end the spread of HIV within Trinidad and Tobago by 2030.    

Healthcare worker
story

| 17 May 2022

Ensuring care for Trinidad and Tobago's LGBTI+ community

Public perceptions, a lack of education, and government policies contribute to the barriers and challenges to achieving equality for all. In a country as diverse as Trinidad and Tobago, this is especially acute for certain key populations, including the LGBTI+ community.  For Brandy Rodriguez, Healthcare Navigator at the Family Planning Association of Trinidad and Tobago (FPATT), the struggle is both real and personal. In 1999, Brandy began her transition to womanhood and since 2006 has been working with FPATT in their HIV programme for the LGBTI+ community.    “Back in 2004, very little was said about HIV infection, transmission and prevention. In fact, if there was any information, it was misconstrued and meant to stigmatize the LGBTI+ community. I was fairly new to the transgender community, so I made it a mission to research and find out the truths behind HIV and how I could protect myself. I then felt like I had to share what I found with others who were searching as well,” she said.  Overcoming prejudice and stigma   That’s when FPATT asked Brandy to join their team in educating the LGBTI+ community on the types of healthcare available. Stigma surrounding the community forced many to stay hidden and avoid seeking care. Even if a member of the LGBTI+ community wanted to test for their HIV status, they would never dare to go into a public health centre, because of the fear of being judged by the healthcare professionals.    “It’s a simple case of this. When a transgender or non-binary person walks into a health centre or hospital, and the triage nurse has to fill in a form that asks for gender, the only two options there are male and female. So usually, the non-binary person knows that if they want to access that healthcare, free of judgement, they would have to dress as the gender that would bring less attention. At the end of the day, the healthcare provider does not receive accurate information about the client, and the client doesn’t receive the scope of assessment and treatment that may be necessary. So part of what I do, is to simply accompany the client to the appointment so that it’s a less stressful experience and they don’t feel like they are alone,” says Brandy.   The importance of access to HIV treatment and care Apart from a great lack of healthcare professionals that are willing to treat the LGBTI+ community non-judgementally, the community also lacks social support. Most of the members of the community face barriers to housing and employment, which often means earning a livelihood through sex work. Over 95% of skilled and employable persons within the LGBTI+ community have turned to sex work because they are constantly denied employment within other industries.   “When I began my transition, I was fortunate to have the support of my family; they understood my heart and my need to be my authentic self. Not everyone has that support and so some either migrate or are left homeless because of the fact. Having to work within the sex industry means that they are now at greater risk for HIV or other STIs. My job as an Educator and Navigator is to promote condom use and ensure that they make use of FPATT’s regular HIV testing. If they do test positive, we then have that conversation about U=U, which means that if they [their HIV viral load] are undetectable, they will be untransferable, and then get them to that place of undetectability.”    Brandy explains that being undetectable means that the client’s viral load is suppressed, and they are living healthy lives. The team works hard to ensure clients living with HIV enrol in the FPATT Programme, which supports the importance of adhering to consistent treatment, healthy eating, and rest. As well as testing, the Programme offers sexual and reproductive health education on prevention against STIs and both group and one-to-one sessions to anyone who needs it.  Advocating for support  FPATT has, for many years, advocated for the sexual and reproductive rights of the LGBTI+ community, ensuring that it remains a safe place for HIV testing and counselling. It holds a vision of a world where gender or sexuality are no longer a source of inequality or stigma.   FPATT is poised to become a full-service HIV treatment site, offering antiretroviral treatment as well as psychosocial services for persons affected by HIV. FPATT’s goal is to stop discrimination and stigma against persons living with HIV and ultimately end the spread of HIV within Trinidad and Tobago by 2030.    

Doctor
story

| 24 June 2021

Changing mindsets through medicine and motivation

“You work with people who have HIV? Why?” That was the question Dr. Gregory Boyce was asked 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 and administrative support to a team of doctors and nurses providing care to their clients who are 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 referred many clients to Dr. Boyce and his team, and especially clients from the LGBTI+ community.   Providing specialist care and support  “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.   “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  Dr Boyce has been committed to providing treatment and care to clients living with HIV for over 20 years. 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 centres 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 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 LGBTI+ 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 commends the work of FPATT in upholding the sexual and reproductive health and rights of the LGBTI+ community, through ensuring that they have a safe and non-judgmental environment for treatment and care. 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.    

Doctor
story

| 17 May 2022

Changing mindsets through medicine and motivation

“You work with people who have HIV? Why?” That was the question Dr. Gregory Boyce was asked 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 and administrative support to a team of doctors and nurses providing care to their clients who are 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 referred many clients to Dr. Boyce and his team, and especially clients from the LGBTI+ community.   Providing specialist care and support  “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.   “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  Dr Boyce has been committed to providing treatment and care to clients living with HIV for over 20 years. 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 centres 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 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 LGBTI+ 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 commends the work of FPATT in upholding the sexual and reproductive health and rights of the LGBTI+ community, through ensuring that they have a safe and non-judgmental environment for treatment and care. 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.    

Healthcare worker
story

| 24 June 2021

Ensuring care for Trinidad and Tobago's LGBTI+ community

Public perceptions, a lack of education, and government policies contribute to the barriers and challenges to achieving equality for all. In a country as diverse as Trinidad and Tobago, this is especially acute for certain key populations, including the LGBTI+ community.  For Brandy Rodriguez, Healthcare Navigator at the Family Planning Association of Trinidad and Tobago (FPATT), the struggle is both real and personal. In 1999, Brandy began her transition to womanhood and since 2006 has been working with FPATT in their HIV programme for the LGBTI+ community.    “Back in 2004, very little was said about HIV infection, transmission and prevention. In fact, if there was any information, it was misconstrued and meant to stigmatize the LGBTI+ community. I was fairly new to the transgender community, so I made it a mission to research and find out the truths behind HIV and how I could protect myself. I then felt like I had to share what I found with others who were searching as well,” she said.  Overcoming prejudice and stigma   That’s when FPATT asked Brandy to join their team in educating the LGBTI+ community on the types of healthcare available. Stigma surrounding the community forced many to stay hidden and avoid seeking care. Even if a member of the LGBTI+ community wanted to test for their HIV status, they would never dare to go into a public health centre, because of the fear of being judged by the healthcare professionals.    “It’s a simple case of this. When a transgender or non-binary person walks into a health centre or hospital, and the triage nurse has to fill in a form that asks for gender, the only two options there are male and female. So usually, the non-binary person knows that if they want to access that healthcare, free of judgement, they would have to dress as the gender that would bring less attention. At the end of the day, the healthcare provider does not receive accurate information about the client, and the client doesn’t receive the scope of assessment and treatment that may be necessary. So part of what I do, is to simply accompany the client to the appointment so that it’s a less stressful experience and they don’t feel like they are alone,” says Brandy.   The importance of access to HIV treatment and care Apart from a great lack of healthcare professionals that are willing to treat the LGBTI+ community non-judgementally, the community also lacks social support. Most of the members of the community face barriers to housing and employment, which often means earning a livelihood through sex work. Over 95% of skilled and employable persons within the LGBTI+ community have turned to sex work because they are constantly denied employment within other industries.   “When I began my transition, I was fortunate to have the support of my family; they understood my heart and my need to be my authentic self. Not everyone has that support and so some either migrate or are left homeless because of the fact. Having to work within the sex industry means that they are now at greater risk for HIV or other STIs. My job as an Educator and Navigator is to promote condom use and ensure that they make use of FPATT’s regular HIV testing. If they do test positive, we then have that conversation about U=U, which means that if they [their HIV viral load] are undetectable, they will be untransferable, and then get them to that place of undetectability.”    Brandy explains that being undetectable means that the client’s viral load is suppressed, and they are living healthy lives. The team works hard to ensure clients living with HIV enrol in the FPATT Programme, which supports the importance of adhering to consistent treatment, healthy eating, and rest. As well as testing, the Programme offers sexual and reproductive health education on prevention against STIs and both group and one-to-one sessions to anyone who needs it.  Advocating for support  FPATT has, for many years, advocated for the sexual and reproductive rights of the LGBTI+ community, ensuring that it remains a safe place for HIV testing and counselling. It holds a vision of a world where gender or sexuality are no longer a source of inequality or stigma.   FPATT is poised to become a full-service HIV treatment site, offering antiretroviral treatment as well as psychosocial services for persons affected by HIV. FPATT’s goal is to stop discrimination and stigma against persons living with HIV and ultimately end the spread of HIV within Trinidad and Tobago by 2030.    

Healthcare worker
story

| 17 May 2022

Ensuring care for Trinidad and Tobago's LGBTI+ community

Public perceptions, a lack of education, and government policies contribute to the barriers and challenges to achieving equality for all. In a country as diverse as Trinidad and Tobago, this is especially acute for certain key populations, including the LGBTI+ community.  For Brandy Rodriguez, Healthcare Navigator at the Family Planning Association of Trinidad and Tobago (FPATT), the struggle is both real and personal. In 1999, Brandy began her transition to womanhood and since 2006 has been working with FPATT in their HIV programme for the LGBTI+ community.    “Back in 2004, very little was said about HIV infection, transmission and prevention. In fact, if there was any information, it was misconstrued and meant to stigmatize the LGBTI+ community. I was fairly new to the transgender community, so I made it a mission to research and find out the truths behind HIV and how I could protect myself. I then felt like I had to share what I found with others who were searching as well,” she said.  Overcoming prejudice and stigma   That’s when FPATT asked Brandy to join their team in educating the LGBTI+ community on the types of healthcare available. Stigma surrounding the community forced many to stay hidden and avoid seeking care. Even if a member of the LGBTI+ community wanted to test for their HIV status, they would never dare to go into a public health centre, because of the fear of being judged by the healthcare professionals.    “It’s a simple case of this. When a transgender or non-binary person walks into a health centre or hospital, and the triage nurse has to fill in a form that asks for gender, the only two options there are male and female. So usually, the non-binary person knows that if they want to access that healthcare, free of judgement, they would have to dress as the gender that would bring less attention. At the end of the day, the healthcare provider does not receive accurate information about the client, and the client doesn’t receive the scope of assessment and treatment that may be necessary. So part of what I do, is to simply accompany the client to the appointment so that it’s a less stressful experience and they don’t feel like they are alone,” says Brandy.   The importance of access to HIV treatment and care Apart from a great lack of healthcare professionals that are willing to treat the LGBTI+ community non-judgementally, the community also lacks social support. Most of the members of the community face barriers to housing and employment, which often means earning a livelihood through sex work. Over 95% of skilled and employable persons within the LGBTI+ community have turned to sex work because they are constantly denied employment within other industries.   “When I began my transition, I was fortunate to have the support of my family; they understood my heart and my need to be my authentic self. Not everyone has that support and so some either migrate or are left homeless because of the fact. Having to work within the sex industry means that they are now at greater risk for HIV or other STIs. My job as an Educator and Navigator is to promote condom use and ensure that they make use of FPATT’s regular HIV testing. If they do test positive, we then have that conversation about U=U, which means that if they [their HIV viral load] are undetectable, they will be untransferable, and then get them to that place of undetectability.”    Brandy explains that being undetectable means that the client’s viral load is suppressed, and they are living healthy lives. The team works hard to ensure clients living with HIV enrol in the FPATT Programme, which supports the importance of adhering to consistent treatment, healthy eating, and rest. As well as testing, the Programme offers sexual and reproductive health education on prevention against STIs and both group and one-to-one sessions to anyone who needs it.  Advocating for support  FPATT has, for many years, advocated for the sexual and reproductive rights of the LGBTI+ community, ensuring that it remains a safe place for HIV testing and counselling. It holds a vision of a world where gender or sexuality are no longer a source of inequality or stigma.   FPATT is poised to become a full-service HIV treatment site, offering antiretroviral treatment as well as psychosocial services for persons affected by HIV. FPATT’s goal is to stop discrimination and stigma against persons living with HIV and ultimately end the spread of HIV within Trinidad and Tobago by 2030.