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Latest stories from IPPF

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A selection of stories from across the Federation

Humanitarian response team, Fiji.
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In pictures: Humanitarian photographers share their experiences of storytelling in the field

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

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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

| 19 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

| 19 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.    

aruba
story

| 26 May 2021

COVID-19 inspires new approach to reaching young people during lockdown

Provision of sexual and reproductive healthcare for all, regardless of age, is at the core of Famia Planea Aruba’s (FPA) work. Over the years FPA has developed different information packages specifically aimed at reaching and supporting young people, families, and educators.   The inspiration for delivering comprehensive sexuality education digitally to young people was propelled by the COVID-19 lockdown. Like other frontline healthcare providers, FPA was faced with unforeseen challenges about how to continue reaching their communities. Undeterred, the team embraced the challenge to create, develop, and launch FPA’s first Online Puberty Educational News Program (OPEN).   Responding to clients' needs digitally  “In the last few years, FPA’s in-school Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) program was growing rapidly, and then all of a sudden we hit a wall; our Island was in complete lockdown and all schools were closed. At first, we were very sad, since we were fully booked for the upcoming few months, and would lose the opportunity to reach thousands of young people”, says Evelyn Yarzagaray, FPA’s Executive Director.   Typically, during April and May FPA usually focuses on students between the ages of 11 and 13 and supporting with the transition from elementary school to secondary school. At this age young people are starting to experience changes to their bodies and hormones.   “We were all of a sudden bombarded with parents who started requesting one-on-one counselling sessions for their kids, but due to safety regulations this was not an easy option. That was when we started looking for a way to reach both parent and child in the safety of their own homes. By converting materials used during our in-person CSE program, we developed an educational video that can be viewed by both parent and child”, says Evelyn.  The OPEN platform has been designed with a colourful background, emojis, and animation to appeal to its target audience. Users can access valuable information through the FAQ section, international news, and video content such as an interview with a Family Physician.   “The filming and editing were the longest and most difficult part of the entire process, but once it was launched, we immediately saw that is was completely worth it, reaching over 42,000 people on social media”, Evelyn says.  “I know it's all part of the growing up process”  Jeanira, 37, is a doctor’s assistant and has two young children aged two and 12. She has been a member of FPA for many years, but only recently learned that FPA provides healthcare for all ages and stages of life – particularly young people.   “About a year ago I had begun researching the best way and time to start talking to my daughter about her upcoming body changes, sexuality, and puberty in general”, explains Jeanira.  It was a family member who suggested the FPA video on social media about puberty that was in Jeanira’s native language.   “The video is fun, educational, featured local professionals and related to my daughter’s age. I love the fact that I could introduce the video to her and let her watch it in her own comfort zone. At the end, it did stimulate conversations and questions for a few days after and it truly made it easier for us to talk about some of the topics that can sometimes be a little hard to approach”, says Jeanira.  11-year-old Xiqiën really enjoyed the video: “My favourite part was to be able to recognize some changes that I am going through right now. There are some changes that I would like to skip but I know it’s all part of the growing up process. I’m so thankful that FPA had the idea to make such a fun video for us to learn from. There was some stuff that I already knew, but I also learned some new things. I did ask my mom a lot of questions after the video, mostly because they said that everyone is different, and I really wanted to know how my mom is different from me. I don’t feel quite as worried to talk to my mom about these things anymore, I know that she will try to help.”    

aruba
story

| 19 May 2022

COVID-19 inspires new approach to reaching young people during lockdown

Provision of sexual and reproductive healthcare for all, regardless of age, is at the core of Famia Planea Aruba’s (FPA) work. Over the years FPA has developed different information packages specifically aimed at reaching and supporting young people, families, and educators.   The inspiration for delivering comprehensive sexuality education digitally to young people was propelled by the COVID-19 lockdown. Like other frontline healthcare providers, FPA was faced with unforeseen challenges about how to continue reaching their communities. Undeterred, the team embraced the challenge to create, develop, and launch FPA’s first Online Puberty Educational News Program (OPEN).   Responding to clients' needs digitally  “In the last few years, FPA’s in-school Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) program was growing rapidly, and then all of a sudden we hit a wall; our Island was in complete lockdown and all schools were closed. At first, we were very sad, since we were fully booked for the upcoming few months, and would lose the opportunity to reach thousands of young people”, says Evelyn Yarzagaray, FPA’s Executive Director.   Typically, during April and May FPA usually focuses on students between the ages of 11 and 13 and supporting with the transition from elementary school to secondary school. At this age young people are starting to experience changes to their bodies and hormones.   “We were all of a sudden bombarded with parents who started requesting one-on-one counselling sessions for their kids, but due to safety regulations this was not an easy option. That was when we started looking for a way to reach both parent and child in the safety of their own homes. By converting materials used during our in-person CSE program, we developed an educational video that can be viewed by both parent and child”, says Evelyn.  The OPEN platform has been designed with a colourful background, emojis, and animation to appeal to its target audience. Users can access valuable information through the FAQ section, international news, and video content such as an interview with a Family Physician.   “The filming and editing were the longest and most difficult part of the entire process, but once it was launched, we immediately saw that is was completely worth it, reaching over 42,000 people on social media”, Evelyn says.  “I know it's all part of the growing up process”  Jeanira, 37, is a doctor’s assistant and has two young children aged two and 12. She has been a member of FPA for many years, but only recently learned that FPA provides healthcare for all ages and stages of life – particularly young people.   “About a year ago I had begun researching the best way and time to start talking to my daughter about her upcoming body changes, sexuality, and puberty in general”, explains Jeanira.  It was a family member who suggested the FPA video on social media about puberty that was in Jeanira’s native language.   “The video is fun, educational, featured local professionals and related to my daughter’s age. I love the fact that I could introduce the video to her and let her watch it in her own comfort zone. At the end, it did stimulate conversations and questions for a few days after and it truly made it easier for us to talk about some of the topics that can sometimes be a little hard to approach”, says Jeanira.  11-year-old Xiqiën really enjoyed the video: “My favourite part was to be able to recognize some changes that I am going through right now. There are some changes that I would like to skip but I know it’s all part of the growing up process. I’m so thankful that FPA had the idea to make such a fun video for us to learn from. There was some stuff that I already knew, but I also learned some new things. I did ask my mom a lot of questions after the video, mostly because they said that everyone is different, and I really wanted to know how my mom is different from me. I don’t feel quite as worried to talk to my mom about these things anymore, I know that she will try to help.”    

Healthcare worker
story

| 26 May 2021

Providing information and contraceptive care to young people in school

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 15 years FPA has worked in partnership with one of the largest secondary schools on the island. The FPA team visits the school every month to provide guidance, counselling, 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 Information, Education and Communication (IEC) support staff.  Building trust  FPA’s client is at the heart of its healthcare provision. The FPA team works 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.  Working in partnership with the school social worker   FPA places great value on the 14-year relationship they have with Adriana, the social worker at EPB San Nicolas School. Adriana is the person who has the most contact with the students, and the one most student’s turn to when they need help.   “Most of the time you get to have fun with the students, however every now and then you will come across a heartbreaking case. Since Aruba has so many different migrants, very often you will come across one person who is not insured at the moment, who needs products and can’t afford it – and you figure out a way to help”, Adriana says.  For registered youth under 21 years of age, the costs of the healthcare provision are covered by the national health insurance, however, some students fall outside of the system.  “For our second, third and fourth-year students, FPA has been collaborating with us to provide a monthly session where the students receive contraceptives and guidance on school grounds. Since around this age, most of our students are already sexually active, we try to help them stay safe in and out of school.”  “The love, patience, and dedication that FPA has shown our students over the years are outstanding. At the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis we had to stop the consultation hours, but thankfully we are now back at it, bigger and better. Due to the collaboration with FPA we were able to finish out our 2018-2019 school year with no new pregnancies, which was a first for our school. We hope to accomplish this again, now that we can continue our consultations, and keep our kids educated and in school for as long as we can so they can achieve the best possible future”, Adriana says.   

Healthcare worker
story

| 19 May 2022

Providing information and contraceptive care to young people in school

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 15 years FPA has worked in partnership with one of the largest secondary schools on the island. The FPA team visits the school every month to provide guidance, counselling, 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 Information, Education and Communication (IEC) support staff.  Building trust  FPA’s client is at the heart of its healthcare provision. The FPA team works 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.  Working in partnership with the school social worker   FPA places great value on the 14-year relationship they have with Adriana, the social worker at EPB San Nicolas School. Adriana is the person who has the most contact with the students, and the one most student’s turn to when they need help.   “Most of the time you get to have fun with the students, however every now and then you will come across a heartbreaking case. Since Aruba has so many different migrants, very often you will come across one person who is not insured at the moment, who needs products and can’t afford it – and you figure out a way to help”, Adriana says.  For registered youth under 21 years of age, the costs of the healthcare provision are covered by the national health insurance, however, some students fall outside of the system.  “For our second, third and fourth-year students, FPA has been collaborating with us to provide a monthly session where the students receive contraceptives and guidance on school grounds. Since around this age, most of our students are already sexually active, we try to help them stay safe in and out of school.”  “The love, patience, and dedication that FPA has shown our students over the years are outstanding. At the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis we had to stop the consultation hours, but thankfully we are now back at it, bigger and better. Due to the collaboration with FPA we were able to finish out our 2018-2019 school year with no new pregnancies, which was a first for our school. We hope to accomplish this again, now that we can continue our consultations, and keep our kids educated and in school for as long as we can so they can achieve the best possible future”, Adriana says.   

Healthcare worker
story

| 26 May 2021

The personal contraceptive delivery service

When Famia Planea Aruba (FPA) saw a gap in the market, the team developed an online contraceptive store and bespoke delivery service to better reach their clients. The online store is available in the local Aruban language, Papiamento, and has been designed to provide quick access to various contraceptive methods, with supporting information to help clients make choices based on their needs.   Ghislaine, Head of Information, Education and Communication Support at FPA has been managing the delivery service since it started in August 2018.  “Since the start of the delivery service in 2018, our clients were enthusiastic however, the usage started slow. I believe this was due to the unfamiliarity, and people were still in the transition phase to online services. Moreover, clients believed that the delivery transportation would have been in a car, completely covered in images of condoms, sperm cells and pills, which made them sceptic of using the service due to embarrassment”, says Ghislaine.   The site is accessible to both FPA members and non-members who can shop in privacy for their contraceptives and schedule a delivery. Orders are delivered by FPA staff with clients having the option to pay cash or debit upon delivery. To ensure a clients’ privacy and confidentiality orders are delivered discreetly.  Challenges and opportunities  As with any new service comes challenges as well as opportunities. “Some of the challenges we face are the overload of deliveries on one day.” Even though Aruba is a small island and there are traffic jams only at specific hours in the day. “Sometimes I get stuck in traffic and try to rush myself to deliver the products in the time slot and at times I find myself in places that I barely recognize and discover new locations.”  “The part I enjoy is the communication with the clients. Building a relationship with the client and vice versa provides a smoother transition of service but also provides the comfort and safe feeling for the client.”  Ghislaine says the service often calls for more than the delivery of contraceptive orders, as clients may have questions or need support about their health.  Personal and convenient healthcare  Damara is a data analyst and a member of the Sustainable Development Goals Commission. She started using FPA contraceptive delivery service a year ago.   “It definitely has made my life much easier, especially when I have a busy schedule. With the delivery service I simply order my products through the online store and choose the date and time that is most convenient for me”, she says.  Damara values the personal service and the convenience of paying by card and choosing a preferred delivery time. “I love this service because sometimes I place an order a few days before and the employees at FPA call to confirm the order the day of the delivery, which is great because it is like a personal reminder! The best part is that they also have a portable ATM machine. I get my products, guidance and have it delivered to my location, what more can you ask for?”  FPA’s bespoke healthcare delivery has seen a successful growth since it started, with an increase of 115% during 2019 and 170% in 2020. “There has been an immense increase in the service in 2020 due to the pandemic. We already had the service in place, so we just had to fill in the gaps; for example, providing more hours and dates for clients to make use of the service”, says Ghislaine.  Hilyann, a journalist, is another regular user of the online store. “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.”   

Healthcare worker
story

| 19 May 2022

The personal contraceptive delivery service

When Famia Planea Aruba (FPA) saw a gap in the market, the team developed an online contraceptive store and bespoke delivery service to better reach their clients. The online store is available in the local Aruban language, Papiamento, and has been designed to provide quick access to various contraceptive methods, with supporting information to help clients make choices based on their needs.   Ghislaine, Head of Information, Education and Communication Support at FPA has been managing the delivery service since it started in August 2018.  “Since the start of the delivery service in 2018, our clients were enthusiastic however, the usage started slow. I believe this was due to the unfamiliarity, and people were still in the transition phase to online services. Moreover, clients believed that the delivery transportation would have been in a car, completely covered in images of condoms, sperm cells and pills, which made them sceptic of using the service due to embarrassment”, says Ghislaine.   The site is accessible to both FPA members and non-members who can shop in privacy for their contraceptives and schedule a delivery. Orders are delivered by FPA staff with clients having the option to pay cash or debit upon delivery. To ensure a clients’ privacy and confidentiality orders are delivered discreetly.  Challenges and opportunities  As with any new service comes challenges as well as opportunities. “Some of the challenges we face are the overload of deliveries on one day.” Even though Aruba is a small island and there are traffic jams only at specific hours in the day. “Sometimes I get stuck in traffic and try to rush myself to deliver the products in the time slot and at times I find myself in places that I barely recognize and discover new locations.”  “The part I enjoy is the communication with the clients. Building a relationship with the client and vice versa provides a smoother transition of service but also provides the comfort and safe feeling for the client.”  Ghislaine says the service often calls for more than the delivery of contraceptive orders, as clients may have questions or need support about their health.  Personal and convenient healthcare  Damara is a data analyst and a member of the Sustainable Development Goals Commission. She started using FPA contraceptive delivery service a year ago.   “It definitely has made my life much easier, especially when I have a busy schedule. With the delivery service I simply order my products through the online store and choose the date and time that is most convenient for me”, she says.  Damara values the personal service and the convenience of paying by card and choosing a preferred delivery time. “I love this service because sometimes I place an order a few days before and the employees at FPA call to confirm the order the day of the delivery, which is great because it is like a personal reminder! The best part is that they also have a portable ATM machine. I get my products, guidance and have it delivered to my location, what more can you ask for?”  FPA’s bespoke healthcare delivery has seen a successful growth since it started, with an increase of 115% during 2019 and 170% in 2020. “There has been an immense increase in the service in 2020 due to the pandemic. We already had the service in place, so we just had to fill in the gaps; for example, providing more hours and dates for clients to make use of the service”, says Ghislaine.  Hilyann, a journalist, is another regular user of the online store. “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.”   

Volunteer
story

| 19 May 2021

"I changed first...so can other men"

"One day, when I returned from work, Ms. Glenda and Mr. Martin from Pro-Familia were at my house. I heard what the volunteering was about, regarding the education of the men in the community, how to teach how to stop machismo, to be less violent, how to give the talks and visit the clients. They also talked about the contraceptive methods, medicines and many things that would change people's lives. The proposal seemed important to me and I accepted, since I like to work for my people," recalls José.  In 2008, the Asociación Demográfica Salvadoreña (Pro-Familia) developed a project focusing on sexual and reproductive health and the active participation of men in rural areas. It concentrated specifically on the integration of male participation in sexual and reproductive healthcare. Since 2014, the project has been integrated into the Community-Based Programme as part of the provision of healthcare for rural men.  "When I gave the talks on masculinities, they questioned me: 'Why can't you scream at home, if you're the man?' Or 'who do you think you are to say those things?', questions that I also asked myself once", says José. "Thanks to the training I have had and the support of the Pro-Familia staff, I have managed to learn and clarify my doubts. I take care of my own health, I share the responsibilities at home, I take care of my two-year-old son – before volunteering, I thought it was a woman’s job, I didn't do that."  Ensuring access to information and contraception   Educational activities in sexual and reproductive health remain a challenge, but Pro-Familia is committed to delivering their strategy. The role of the health promoter is to advocate – with other men – the use of contraception, counselling couples, and providing supplies (especially condoms) and medicines.   "I like the communication I have with the Pro-Familia staff, and the training reinforcements – they should keep it that way, because it's the way to learn and do things better in the community," he says.  "The change begins with oneself and then transmits it to others. I gather men in talks, make visits to their homes, give guidance on prevention of sexually- transmitted infections, on family planning, and how not to be violent", says José. "Older adult men are more difficult to change."  Increasing contraceptive use among men   José has seen the positive change among men in his community and those small achievements encourage him to keep going. "When men ask me about violence and condom use, I feel encouraged. For example: a co-worker uses a condom and confidently tells me that he does it because he learned from the talks he received, that motivates me to continue guiding towards new masculinities."  The Community-Based Program has a special fund for clients who are referred by promoters for a voluntary surgical contraception (VSC) procedure, so the service is free of charge for clients. In this regard, José is aware that there is still work to be done: "The issue of vasectomy is difficult with men in the community, the challenges continue."  "In the community, young people 'get to live together' [marital union] at an early age. Maybe I cannot change that, but I can help them to be better people, to respect each other. Just as I changed, so can other men," says José. 

Volunteer
story

| 19 May 2022

"I changed first...so can other men"

"One day, when I returned from work, Ms. Glenda and Mr. Martin from Pro-Familia were at my house. I heard what the volunteering was about, regarding the education of the men in the community, how to teach how to stop machismo, to be less violent, how to give the talks and visit the clients. They also talked about the contraceptive methods, medicines and many things that would change people's lives. The proposal seemed important to me and I accepted, since I like to work for my people," recalls José.  In 2008, the Asociación Demográfica Salvadoreña (Pro-Familia) developed a project focusing on sexual and reproductive health and the active participation of men in rural areas. It concentrated specifically on the integration of male participation in sexual and reproductive healthcare. Since 2014, the project has been integrated into the Community-Based Programme as part of the provision of healthcare for rural men.  "When I gave the talks on masculinities, they questioned me: 'Why can't you scream at home, if you're the man?' Or 'who do you think you are to say those things?', questions that I also asked myself once", says José. "Thanks to the training I have had and the support of the Pro-Familia staff, I have managed to learn and clarify my doubts. I take care of my own health, I share the responsibilities at home, I take care of my two-year-old son – before volunteering, I thought it was a woman’s job, I didn't do that."  Ensuring access to information and contraception   Educational activities in sexual and reproductive health remain a challenge, but Pro-Familia is committed to delivering their strategy. The role of the health promoter is to advocate – with other men – the use of contraception, counselling couples, and providing supplies (especially condoms) and medicines.   "I like the communication I have with the Pro-Familia staff, and the training reinforcements – they should keep it that way, because it's the way to learn and do things better in the community," he says.  "The change begins with oneself and then transmits it to others. I gather men in talks, make visits to their homes, give guidance on prevention of sexually- transmitted infections, on family planning, and how not to be violent", says José. "Older adult men are more difficult to change."  Increasing contraceptive use among men   José has seen the positive change among men in his community and those small achievements encourage him to keep going. "When men ask me about violence and condom use, I feel encouraged. For example: a co-worker uses a condom and confidently tells me that he does it because he learned from the talks he received, that motivates me to continue guiding towards new masculinities."  The Community-Based Program has a special fund for clients who are referred by promoters for a voluntary surgical contraception (VSC) procedure, so the service is free of charge for clients. In this regard, José is aware that there is still work to be done: "The issue of vasectomy is difficult with men in the community, the challenges continue."  "In the community, young people 'get to live together' [marital union] at an early age. Maybe I cannot change that, but I can help them to be better people, to respect each other. Just as I changed, so can other men," says José. 

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

| 19 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

| 19 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.    

aruba
story

| 26 May 2021

COVID-19 inspires new approach to reaching young people during lockdown

Provision of sexual and reproductive healthcare for all, regardless of age, is at the core of Famia Planea Aruba’s (FPA) work. Over the years FPA has developed different information packages specifically aimed at reaching and supporting young people, families, and educators.   The inspiration for delivering comprehensive sexuality education digitally to young people was propelled by the COVID-19 lockdown. Like other frontline healthcare providers, FPA was faced with unforeseen challenges about how to continue reaching their communities. Undeterred, the team embraced the challenge to create, develop, and launch FPA’s first Online Puberty Educational News Program (OPEN).   Responding to clients' needs digitally  “In the last few years, FPA’s in-school Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) program was growing rapidly, and then all of a sudden we hit a wall; our Island was in complete lockdown and all schools were closed. At first, we were very sad, since we were fully booked for the upcoming few months, and would lose the opportunity to reach thousands of young people”, says Evelyn Yarzagaray, FPA’s Executive Director.   Typically, during April and May FPA usually focuses on students between the ages of 11 and 13 and supporting with the transition from elementary school to secondary school. At this age young people are starting to experience changes to their bodies and hormones.   “We were all of a sudden bombarded with parents who started requesting one-on-one counselling sessions for their kids, but due to safety regulations this was not an easy option. That was when we started looking for a way to reach both parent and child in the safety of their own homes. By converting materials used during our in-person CSE program, we developed an educational video that can be viewed by both parent and child”, says Evelyn.  The OPEN platform has been designed with a colourful background, emojis, and animation to appeal to its target audience. Users can access valuable information through the FAQ section, international news, and video content such as an interview with a Family Physician.   “The filming and editing were the longest and most difficult part of the entire process, but once it was launched, we immediately saw that is was completely worth it, reaching over 42,000 people on social media”, Evelyn says.  “I know it's all part of the growing up process”  Jeanira, 37, is a doctor’s assistant and has two young children aged two and 12. She has been a member of FPA for many years, but only recently learned that FPA provides healthcare for all ages and stages of life – particularly young people.   “About a year ago I had begun researching the best way and time to start talking to my daughter about her upcoming body changes, sexuality, and puberty in general”, explains Jeanira.  It was a family member who suggested the FPA video on social media about puberty that was in Jeanira’s native language.   “The video is fun, educational, featured local professionals and related to my daughter’s age. I love the fact that I could introduce the video to her and let her watch it in her own comfort zone. At the end, it did stimulate conversations and questions for a few days after and it truly made it easier for us to talk about some of the topics that can sometimes be a little hard to approach”, says Jeanira.  11-year-old Xiqiën really enjoyed the video: “My favourite part was to be able to recognize some changes that I am going through right now. There are some changes that I would like to skip but I know it’s all part of the growing up process. I’m so thankful that FPA had the idea to make such a fun video for us to learn from. There was some stuff that I already knew, but I also learned some new things. I did ask my mom a lot of questions after the video, mostly because they said that everyone is different, and I really wanted to know how my mom is different from me. I don’t feel quite as worried to talk to my mom about these things anymore, I know that she will try to help.”    

aruba
story

| 19 May 2022

COVID-19 inspires new approach to reaching young people during lockdown

Provision of sexual and reproductive healthcare for all, regardless of age, is at the core of Famia Planea Aruba’s (FPA) work. Over the years FPA has developed different information packages specifically aimed at reaching and supporting young people, families, and educators.   The inspiration for delivering comprehensive sexuality education digitally to young people was propelled by the COVID-19 lockdown. Like other frontline healthcare providers, FPA was faced with unforeseen challenges about how to continue reaching their communities. Undeterred, the team embraced the challenge to create, develop, and launch FPA’s first Online Puberty Educational News Program (OPEN).   Responding to clients' needs digitally  “In the last few years, FPA’s in-school Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) program was growing rapidly, and then all of a sudden we hit a wall; our Island was in complete lockdown and all schools were closed. At first, we were very sad, since we were fully booked for the upcoming few months, and would lose the opportunity to reach thousands of young people”, says Evelyn Yarzagaray, FPA’s Executive Director.   Typically, during April and May FPA usually focuses on students between the ages of 11 and 13 and supporting with the transition from elementary school to secondary school. At this age young people are starting to experience changes to their bodies and hormones.   “We were all of a sudden bombarded with parents who started requesting one-on-one counselling sessions for their kids, but due to safety regulations this was not an easy option. That was when we started looking for a way to reach both parent and child in the safety of their own homes. By converting materials used during our in-person CSE program, we developed an educational video that can be viewed by both parent and child”, says Evelyn.  The OPEN platform has been designed with a colourful background, emojis, and animation to appeal to its target audience. Users can access valuable information through the FAQ section, international news, and video content such as an interview with a Family Physician.   “The filming and editing were the longest and most difficult part of the entire process, but once it was launched, we immediately saw that is was completely worth it, reaching over 42,000 people on social media”, Evelyn says.  “I know it's all part of the growing up process”  Jeanira, 37, is a doctor’s assistant and has two young children aged two and 12. She has been a member of FPA for many years, but only recently learned that FPA provides healthcare for all ages and stages of life – particularly young people.   “About a year ago I had begun researching the best way and time to start talking to my daughter about her upcoming body changes, sexuality, and puberty in general”, explains Jeanira.  It was a family member who suggested the FPA video on social media about puberty that was in Jeanira’s native language.   “The video is fun, educational, featured local professionals and related to my daughter’s age. I love the fact that I could introduce the video to her and let her watch it in her own comfort zone. At the end, it did stimulate conversations and questions for a few days after and it truly made it easier for us to talk about some of the topics that can sometimes be a little hard to approach”, says Jeanira.  11-year-old Xiqiën really enjoyed the video: “My favourite part was to be able to recognize some changes that I am going through right now. There are some changes that I would like to skip but I know it’s all part of the growing up process. I’m so thankful that FPA had the idea to make such a fun video for us to learn from. There was some stuff that I already knew, but I also learned some new things. I did ask my mom a lot of questions after the video, mostly because they said that everyone is different, and I really wanted to know how my mom is different from me. I don’t feel quite as worried to talk to my mom about these things anymore, I know that she will try to help.”    

Healthcare worker
story

| 26 May 2021

Providing information and contraceptive care to young people in school

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 15 years FPA has worked in partnership with one of the largest secondary schools on the island. The FPA team visits the school every month to provide guidance, counselling, 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 Information, Education and Communication (IEC) support staff.  Building trust  FPA’s client is at the heart of its healthcare provision. The FPA team works 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.  Working in partnership with the school social worker   FPA places great value on the 14-year relationship they have with Adriana, the social worker at EPB San Nicolas School. Adriana is the person who has the most contact with the students, and the one most student’s turn to when they need help.   “Most of the time you get to have fun with the students, however every now and then you will come across a heartbreaking case. Since Aruba has so many different migrants, very often you will come across one person who is not insured at the moment, who needs products and can’t afford it – and you figure out a way to help”, Adriana says.  For registered youth under 21 years of age, the costs of the healthcare provision are covered by the national health insurance, however, some students fall outside of the system.  “For our second, third and fourth-year students, FPA has been collaborating with us to provide a monthly session where the students receive contraceptives and guidance on school grounds. Since around this age, most of our students are already sexually active, we try to help them stay safe in and out of school.”  “The love, patience, and dedication that FPA has shown our students over the years are outstanding. At the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis we had to stop the consultation hours, but thankfully we are now back at it, bigger and better. Due to the collaboration with FPA we were able to finish out our 2018-2019 school year with no new pregnancies, which was a first for our school. We hope to accomplish this again, now that we can continue our consultations, and keep our kids educated and in school for as long as we can so they can achieve the best possible future”, Adriana says.   

Healthcare worker
story

| 19 May 2022

Providing information and contraceptive care to young people in school

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 15 years FPA has worked in partnership with one of the largest secondary schools on the island. The FPA team visits the school every month to provide guidance, counselling, 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 Information, Education and Communication (IEC) support staff.  Building trust  FPA’s client is at the heart of its healthcare provision. The FPA team works 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.  Working in partnership with the school social worker   FPA places great value on the 14-year relationship they have with Adriana, the social worker at EPB San Nicolas School. Adriana is the person who has the most contact with the students, and the one most student’s turn to when they need help.   “Most of the time you get to have fun with the students, however every now and then you will come across a heartbreaking case. Since Aruba has so many different migrants, very often you will come across one person who is not insured at the moment, who needs products and can’t afford it – and you figure out a way to help”, Adriana says.  For registered youth under 21 years of age, the costs of the healthcare provision are covered by the national health insurance, however, some students fall outside of the system.  “For our second, third and fourth-year students, FPA has been collaborating with us to provide a monthly session where the students receive contraceptives and guidance on school grounds. Since around this age, most of our students are already sexually active, we try to help them stay safe in and out of school.”  “The love, patience, and dedication that FPA has shown our students over the years are outstanding. At the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis we had to stop the consultation hours, but thankfully we are now back at it, bigger and better. Due to the collaboration with FPA we were able to finish out our 2018-2019 school year with no new pregnancies, which was a first for our school. We hope to accomplish this again, now that we can continue our consultations, and keep our kids educated and in school for as long as we can so they can achieve the best possible future”, Adriana says.   

Healthcare worker
story

| 26 May 2021

The personal contraceptive delivery service

When Famia Planea Aruba (FPA) saw a gap in the market, the team developed an online contraceptive store and bespoke delivery service to better reach their clients. The online store is available in the local Aruban language, Papiamento, and has been designed to provide quick access to various contraceptive methods, with supporting information to help clients make choices based on their needs.   Ghislaine, Head of Information, Education and Communication Support at FPA has been managing the delivery service since it started in August 2018.  “Since the start of the delivery service in 2018, our clients were enthusiastic however, the usage started slow. I believe this was due to the unfamiliarity, and people were still in the transition phase to online services. Moreover, clients believed that the delivery transportation would have been in a car, completely covered in images of condoms, sperm cells and pills, which made them sceptic of using the service due to embarrassment”, says Ghislaine.   The site is accessible to both FPA members and non-members who can shop in privacy for their contraceptives and schedule a delivery. Orders are delivered by FPA staff with clients having the option to pay cash or debit upon delivery. To ensure a clients’ privacy and confidentiality orders are delivered discreetly.  Challenges and opportunities  As with any new service comes challenges as well as opportunities. “Some of the challenges we face are the overload of deliveries on one day.” Even though Aruba is a small island and there are traffic jams only at specific hours in the day. “Sometimes I get stuck in traffic and try to rush myself to deliver the products in the time slot and at times I find myself in places that I barely recognize and discover new locations.”  “The part I enjoy is the communication with the clients. Building a relationship with the client and vice versa provides a smoother transition of service but also provides the comfort and safe feeling for the client.”  Ghislaine says the service often calls for more than the delivery of contraceptive orders, as clients may have questions or need support about their health.  Personal and convenient healthcare  Damara is a data analyst and a member of the Sustainable Development Goals Commission. She started using FPA contraceptive delivery service a year ago.   “It definitely has made my life much easier, especially when I have a busy schedule. With the delivery service I simply order my products through the online store and choose the date and time that is most convenient for me”, she says.  Damara values the personal service and the convenience of paying by card and choosing a preferred delivery time. “I love this service because sometimes I place an order a few days before and the employees at FPA call to confirm the order the day of the delivery, which is great because it is like a personal reminder! The best part is that they also have a portable ATM machine. I get my products, guidance and have it delivered to my location, what more can you ask for?”  FPA’s bespoke healthcare delivery has seen a successful growth since it started, with an increase of 115% during 2019 and 170% in 2020. “There has been an immense increase in the service in 2020 due to the pandemic. We already had the service in place, so we just had to fill in the gaps; for example, providing more hours and dates for clients to make use of the service”, says Ghislaine.  Hilyann, a journalist, is another regular user of the online store. “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.”   

Healthcare worker
story

| 19 May 2022

The personal contraceptive delivery service

When Famia Planea Aruba (FPA) saw a gap in the market, the team developed an online contraceptive store and bespoke delivery service to better reach their clients. The online store is available in the local Aruban language, Papiamento, and has been designed to provide quick access to various contraceptive methods, with supporting information to help clients make choices based on their needs.   Ghislaine, Head of Information, Education and Communication Support at FPA has been managing the delivery service since it started in August 2018.  “Since the start of the delivery service in 2018, our clients were enthusiastic however, the usage started slow. I believe this was due to the unfamiliarity, and people were still in the transition phase to online services. Moreover, clients believed that the delivery transportation would have been in a car, completely covered in images of condoms, sperm cells and pills, which made them sceptic of using the service due to embarrassment”, says Ghislaine.   The site is accessible to both FPA members and non-members who can shop in privacy for their contraceptives and schedule a delivery. Orders are delivered by FPA staff with clients having the option to pay cash or debit upon delivery. To ensure a clients’ privacy and confidentiality orders are delivered discreetly.  Challenges and opportunities  As with any new service comes challenges as well as opportunities. “Some of the challenges we face are the overload of deliveries on one day.” Even though Aruba is a small island and there are traffic jams only at specific hours in the day. “Sometimes I get stuck in traffic and try to rush myself to deliver the products in the time slot and at times I find myself in places that I barely recognize and discover new locations.”  “The part I enjoy is the communication with the clients. Building a relationship with the client and vice versa provides a smoother transition of service but also provides the comfort and safe feeling for the client.”  Ghislaine says the service often calls for more than the delivery of contraceptive orders, as clients may have questions or need support about their health.  Personal and convenient healthcare  Damara is a data analyst and a member of the Sustainable Development Goals Commission. She started using FPA contraceptive delivery service a year ago.   “It definitely has made my life much easier, especially when I have a busy schedule. With the delivery service I simply order my products through the online store and choose the date and time that is most convenient for me”, she says.  Damara values the personal service and the convenience of paying by card and choosing a preferred delivery time. “I love this service because sometimes I place an order a few days before and the employees at FPA call to confirm the order the day of the delivery, which is great because it is like a personal reminder! The best part is that they also have a portable ATM machine. I get my products, guidance and have it delivered to my location, what more can you ask for?”  FPA’s bespoke healthcare delivery has seen a successful growth since it started, with an increase of 115% during 2019 and 170% in 2020. “There has been an immense increase in the service in 2020 due to the pandemic. We already had the service in place, so we just had to fill in the gaps; for example, providing more hours and dates for clients to make use of the service”, says Ghislaine.  Hilyann, a journalist, is another regular user of the online store. “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.”   

Volunteer
story

| 19 May 2021

"I changed first...so can other men"

"One day, when I returned from work, Ms. Glenda and Mr. Martin from Pro-Familia were at my house. I heard what the volunteering was about, regarding the education of the men in the community, how to teach how to stop machismo, to be less violent, how to give the talks and visit the clients. They also talked about the contraceptive methods, medicines and many things that would change people's lives. The proposal seemed important to me and I accepted, since I like to work for my people," recalls José.  In 2008, the Asociación Demográfica Salvadoreña (Pro-Familia) developed a project focusing on sexual and reproductive health and the active participation of men in rural areas. It concentrated specifically on the integration of male participation in sexual and reproductive healthcare. Since 2014, the project has been integrated into the Community-Based Programme as part of the provision of healthcare for rural men.  "When I gave the talks on masculinities, they questioned me: 'Why can't you scream at home, if you're the man?' Or 'who do you think you are to say those things?', questions that I also asked myself once", says José. "Thanks to the training I have had and the support of the Pro-Familia staff, I have managed to learn and clarify my doubts. I take care of my own health, I share the responsibilities at home, I take care of my two-year-old son – before volunteering, I thought it was a woman’s job, I didn't do that."  Ensuring access to information and contraception   Educational activities in sexual and reproductive health remain a challenge, but Pro-Familia is committed to delivering their strategy. The role of the health promoter is to advocate – with other men – the use of contraception, counselling couples, and providing supplies (especially condoms) and medicines.   "I like the communication I have with the Pro-Familia staff, and the training reinforcements – they should keep it that way, because it's the way to learn and do things better in the community," he says.  "The change begins with oneself and then transmits it to others. I gather men in talks, make visits to their homes, give guidance on prevention of sexually- transmitted infections, on family planning, and how not to be violent", says José. "Older adult men are more difficult to change."  Increasing contraceptive use among men   José has seen the positive change among men in his community and those small achievements encourage him to keep going. "When men ask me about violence and condom use, I feel encouraged. For example: a co-worker uses a condom and confidently tells me that he does it because he learned from the talks he received, that motivates me to continue guiding towards new masculinities."  The Community-Based Program has a special fund for clients who are referred by promoters for a voluntary surgical contraception (VSC) procedure, so the service is free of charge for clients. In this regard, José is aware that there is still work to be done: "The issue of vasectomy is difficult with men in the community, the challenges continue."  "In the community, young people 'get to live together' [marital union] at an early age. Maybe I cannot change that, but I can help them to be better people, to respect each other. Just as I changed, so can other men," says José. 

Volunteer
story

| 19 May 2022

"I changed first...so can other men"

"One day, when I returned from work, Ms. Glenda and Mr. Martin from Pro-Familia were at my house. I heard what the volunteering was about, regarding the education of the men in the community, how to teach how to stop machismo, to be less violent, how to give the talks and visit the clients. They also talked about the contraceptive methods, medicines and many things that would change people's lives. The proposal seemed important to me and I accepted, since I like to work for my people," recalls José.  In 2008, the Asociación Demográfica Salvadoreña (Pro-Familia) developed a project focusing on sexual and reproductive health and the active participation of men in rural areas. It concentrated specifically on the integration of male participation in sexual and reproductive healthcare. Since 2014, the project has been integrated into the Community-Based Programme as part of the provision of healthcare for rural men.  "When I gave the talks on masculinities, they questioned me: 'Why can't you scream at home, if you're the man?' Or 'who do you think you are to say those things?', questions that I also asked myself once", says José. "Thanks to the training I have had and the support of the Pro-Familia staff, I have managed to learn and clarify my doubts. I take care of my own health, I share the responsibilities at home, I take care of my two-year-old son – before volunteering, I thought it was a woman’s job, I didn't do that."  Ensuring access to information and contraception   Educational activities in sexual and reproductive health remain a challenge, but Pro-Familia is committed to delivering their strategy. The role of the health promoter is to advocate – with other men – the use of contraception, counselling couples, and providing supplies (especially condoms) and medicines.   "I like the communication I have with the Pro-Familia staff, and the training reinforcements – they should keep it that way, because it's the way to learn and do things better in the community," he says.  "The change begins with oneself and then transmits it to others. I gather men in talks, make visits to their homes, give guidance on prevention of sexually- transmitted infections, on family planning, and how not to be violent", says José. "Older adult men are more difficult to change."  Increasing contraceptive use among men   José has seen the positive change among men in his community and those small achievements encourage him to keep going. "When men ask me about violence and condom use, I feel encouraged. For example: a co-worker uses a condom and confidently tells me that he does it because he learned from the talks he received, that motivates me to continue guiding towards new masculinities."  The Community-Based Program has a special fund for clients who are referred by promoters for a voluntary surgical contraception (VSC) procedure, so the service is free of charge for clients. In this regard, José is aware that there is still work to be done: "The issue of vasectomy is difficult with men in the community, the challenges continue."  "In the community, young people 'get to live together' [marital union] at an early age. Maybe I cannot change that, but I can help them to be better people, to respect each other. Just as I changed, so can other men," says José.