For two years (since June 2017), Equals has been able to provide the LGBTQ+ community with a safe space and confidential HIV and STI testing and pyscho-social counselling services thanks to the USAID’s and PEPFAR’s FHI360 LINKAGES Program. Within the first year and a half, over 120 men who have sex with men (MSM) and 5 transgender/ non-binary persons, with 14 persons testing HIV positive, and with the assistance of the Ministry of Health and Wellness’ staff, enrolled into care and treatment. All of these persons are adherent to treatment and many have reached undetectable status.
In 2019, Equals has been able to expand some of it’s services, be a part of health and social dialogs, and partner with other organisations to help the LGBTQ+ community make steps towards being respected as equals and enjoy the rights that every other citizen in Barbados has.
Meeting with the Minister of Health and Wellness
Through the facilitation of LINKAGES and USAID, Equals and Community Education, Empowerment and Development (CEED), met with the Minister of Health and Wellness, Lt. Colonel Jeffery Bostic, to inform him of the impact made on the National HIV/AIDS response thanks to the two community sites offering HIV testing. It was outlined in the presentations the need for a wholistic approach to the HIV/AIDS response (social and economic as well as health) and the importance of continued sensitisation training of healthcare workers on the community and how stigma and discrimination affects them and their access to HIV services. The Minister was more than impressed by the work, and stated “I pledge this Ministry’s continued support to this initiative” and was interested in the continued implementation of the sensitisation workshops within his Ministry.
Equals Offers PrEP
PrEP has been approved and initiated in Barbados since March 2018. Since then, the only clinic it was available at was the Ladymeade Reference Unit (LRU) in Jemmotts Lane. Equals has worked with the Ministry to help properly implement the service, assisting in leading focus groups and attending trainings to ensure the staff can assist clients in accessing the service. Throughout this process, it was evident that the demand for PrEP would be higher than the Ministry could handle alone, and permission was granted for Equals to offer PrEP along with the testing services offered. This implementation was also supported by LINKAGES and lead by Dr. Nastassia Rambaran, with Equals supplying PrEP to over 35 clients at the end of June. Equals is the first, and currently ONLY, community site in the Caribbean region to offer PrEP.
PrEP is available at Equals every Wednesday at the STI clinic between 5 – 8 p.m. for just $20 per visit. For more information, contact us.
Equals teamed up with CEED to facilitate sensitisation workshops. These workshops are targeted at health care providers and address issues of stigma and discrimination and how they affect key populations, such as the LGBTQ+ community, in accessing health care and HIV services. The workshop also helps them understand terminologies and how to address clients and educates them on the fluidity of sex, gender, expression and sexuality.
This workshop not only saw persons from the LRU, who interact with key populations daily, but also nurses from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and counsellors from the Psychiatric Hospital. Reviews from this training are always positive, and many participants asked for continuous trainings to further their understanding of the communities.
Regional Legislative Strategic Planning Meeting
Raven Gill represented Equals in St Lucia for a strategic meeting for risk management and needs assessment for activists and organisations, to gather information about each country’s constitutional laws and risks that LGBT organisations/activists in the public eye may be at. Monitoring and evaluation of legal opportunities to advance the LGBT movement were also looked at.
At the very beginning of March, Equals relocated their Drop-In Center to a more central location, allowing for easier access via public transportation, an issue that was raised often at the last location. In addition, the new location can serve the community better as its multiple levels allow for different activities to occur at the same time. If you would like to know the opening hours for the Drop-In Center, please check our Events page, you can find the calendar there.
The Drop-In Center is a community center that provides a safe space for the LGBTQ+ community to be able to express themselves freely. In addition to the services provided that have been mentioned, the site can be used to study, work, or even seek employment as it has a communal desktop for persons to use.
7th Meeting of the National AIDS Programme Managers and Key Partners and Knowledge Share Fair
Equals was invited to the regional PANCAP Meeting of the National AIDS Programme Managers and Key Partners in Trinidad in early March. This allowed for Equals to be a part of the discussion plans for the regional response to the AIDS epidemic and gain knowledge about strategies used in other countries.
Leading up to the meeting, Equals took part in the K4Health Abstract Writing Programme, and was selected to be one of the 7 abstracts presented at the Knowledge Share Fair, a full day of sharing experiences and successes throughout the region. Equals presented on the impact that their community site has made not only to the National AIDS Response, but also for the LGBTQ community. View the abstract below.
Shared Incident Database PSA Release
March saw the end of our short project “Giving Voices to the Voiceless” which was made possible from a small grant by the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC). During this project, Equals assisted CVC in arranging a training for persons to use the Shared Incident Database (SID), facilitated a Human Rights training that educated persons on the current rights of LBGTQ+ persons in Barbados, saw the collection of just over 20 cases of human rights violations, and produced a public service announcement in the form of an animation. See below.
SID tracks incidents affecting key population groups including, but not limited to, People Living with HIV, Sex Workers, People who Use Drugs, Men who Have Sex with Men, Transgender People, Marginalised Youth, Migrants and Inmates. The Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP) has also agreed to use the database to track incidences of stigma and discrimination as part the overall Strategic Framework for scaling up the response to HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean, giving significant expansion to the regional application and use of the database by both governments and non-government organisations.
Please contact us if you have any cases of human right violations to report.
Advocacy Strategy Development
Equqls was represented by Ravel Gill once again for an intersectional planning advocacy strategy meeting with the Equality and Justice Alliance partnering with ECADE in St. Vincent. The meeting focused on targeting legislation reform of discriminatory laws with government and civil society organisations ,with support of strengthening women, girls and LGBT organisations.
UN Human Rights Capacity Training
Equals, represented by Marisa Hutchinson, participated in a 3-4-day capacity-building training on “UN and Regional Human Rights Mechanisms”, co-organised and co-facilitated by ECADE, COC Netherlands and ARC International with technical support from CariFLAGS. The capacity building training looked at understanding UN and OAS entry points for country-level advocacy, drafting strong country-level reports and building on previous reporting cycle outcomes, learning from and sharing best-practices around involvement in regional and UN Human Rights Mechanisms and implementation of recommendations.
Dance4life Big Impact
Equals was invited to Dance4life’s Big Impact event, an educational Expo with advocacy related booths from a variety of the island’s NGO’s. Equals collaborate with SHE and took their Gender Unicorn diagram from the SDG Gallery to educate the youth of gender and sexual minorities. We believe that being able to occupy these spaces and educate persons on the community is a small act that can have a big impact on the work being done to help ensure we are treated humanely and with respect.
Trans Representation in the Bahamas
Butterfly, the trans-subgroup of Equals, went tot he Bahamas for a trans conference to discuss Transgender related issues within the region. Raven Gill gave an account for challenges the Transgender community faces with unemployment, competent general healthcare including mental health, gender identity recognition and gender marker change, and other socio economic exclusion by the government of Barbados.
May 17th is International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Transphobia and Intersexism (IDAHOBIT). This year we celebrated with a few more activities than last year. In the morning, Equals and SHE were live on Y 103.3 FM to talk about the need to acknowledge stigma and discrimination and how it affect the LGBTQ+ community. Afterwards we held a press conference at the UN House. Equals director Michael Rapley spoke about the work being done to tackle homophobia transphobia and biphobia through the sensitisation workshops and the use of SID. SHE director Roann Mohammed explored the results of a needs assessment survey done for LBT women as they are often left out of programming, especially sexual health. Founder of the trans organisation Butterfly, spoke on the challenges of navigating society as a trans woman, stating the need for the gender marker to be able to be changed, as that would make things a lot easier, such as travelling. Organisations that Equals has partnered with also came to makes statements and stand in solidarity against stigma and discrimination. These organisations included; Junior Chamber International Barbados, who stood in solidarity last year, Dance4life, the Barbados Family Planning Association, and the UWI Youth Development Program. I the evening, Equals hosted a fundraising event at the Drop-In Center aimed at raising funds for future activities and endeavours
BFPA Sensitisation Workshop
Equals hosted one of the sensitisation workshops at our partner the BFPA for their staff, which included doctors, nurses, admin staff, custodians and general workers. The BFPA have been a partnering with Equals for 2 years to improve their services towards sexual and gender minorities, as they believe in access to healthcare for all.
Globally, June is Pride Month and once again Equals was a part of the Pride Barbados Celebrations. Equals hosted a Quizz Night at Aeon Bar, facilitated the Open Mic Night, and hosted a weekend of events at our Drop-In Center: Spectrum (a social event now on every Friday), a Movie Night, and the Health Fair. Members also joined in on the Parade, held the last Sunday of the month.
Pride Barbados believes in People Respecting Individuality, Diversity and Equality and Equals looks forward to being able to utilise this platform to reach community members and allies alike in educating and providing safe spaces for persons to express themselves freely.
Another sensitisation workshop was held with the Ministry of Health and Wellness in June, and it saw security guards, lab technicians, pharmacists and medical students taking part. Staff of the BFPA who could not make May’s session were also invited to attend.
BFPA Community Clinic
July 18th started the BFPA Community Clinic at Equals, helping us add more services for the LGBTQ+ community. A trial run saw the clinic from 4 – 6p.m. on Tuesdays, and right from the inception saw a great response. The services offered at the clinic include a full examination, blood pressure and sugar checks, genealogical services, contraception, prostate checks and STI testing. All of this is included in the price of $30 for the community. If you need additional services, the doctor will make the appropriate referrals. Currently the community clinic is every Thursday from 5 – 8 p.m.
Directory of Sensitised Services
Equals, through the facilitation of LINKAGES, worked with CEED and the Ministry of Health and Wellness to create a directory of services that are sensitised to the LGBTQ+ community’s needs. There are service providers who have been worked with before in regards to sexual and gender minority needs. On June 27th, Regional Testing Day in Barbados, the directory was presented to the Minister of Health and Wellness, and launched, having the directory distributed throughout the island. As seen below, the directory does not directly indicate that these services are LGBTQ+ friendly, and this has been done for discretion of our community, and the general population can also make use of the directory as well. However, if you receive negative service at these facilities, please report them to us.
Media and Communications Training
Through the UNDP Being LGBTI in the Caribbean Project (BLIC), Equals joined other LGBT organisations in a capacity training workshop to improve their social media presence, as well as how to engage with the media. Equals gained essential tools and information and are looking forward to utilising them to improve the work being done to better communicate, educate and respond.
6 More Months of Impact
Equals is looking forward to creating even more partnerships over the next half of 2019. But for the time being, we would like to encourage the community to utilise the Drop-in Center as it is a safe space designed for you! In addition, we encourage you to become a member (even allies) so that you can also have a say on the impact we have. We are an organisation of the community for the community and therefore community input is necessary to ensure that we are making impact in the correct places! To become a member, sign up here!