PANCAP News-in the caribbean

World Learning and USAID US$5.8 million grant impacts HIV programs for NGOs in Jamaica and The Bahamas

NASSAU, Bahamas -- Fourteen NGOs in The Bahamas and Jamaica were recipients of a US$5.8 million, 5-year (Five years in JA, 3 years in Bahamas) Grant from World Learning (WL) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for educational programs, aimed towards HIV/AIDS prevention where over 17,000 people were impacted. Recently, a closing out ceremony was held in Nassau, Bahamas on September 18th, 2015 recognizing the Bahamian partners and the Bahamas Ministry of Health.

Funded by PEPFAR (Presidents’ Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) through USAID, the World Learning implementation of the Caribbean Grants and Solicitation and Management (CGSM) program came to a conclusion. The Grant was a catalyst for strengthening the capacities of the NGOs at a community level, and they were tasked with HIV/AIDS education in preventing HIV and sexually transmitted infections. The overall Grant directly impacted almost 17,000 people made up of 621 youths, 3,339 commercial sex workers, 3,778 men who have sex with men (MSM), and 9,127 made up the general population.

According to a UNAIDS report (2012), 6,800 persons or just over three percent of the Bahamian population have HIV with prevalence in the ages 15 to 49 category with 58 percent of those cases occurring among women. Similar to Jamaica, commercial sex workers and MSM, continue to be most represented in national statistics. As well, there is a documented increased shift in youths being at-risk of contracting HIV/AIDS. (Source: World Learning CGSM 2011-2015 Project Report).

Bahamian NGOs that received just under $1 million in funds over a 3-year period included the Bahamas Red Cross Society, Bahamas AIDS Foundation (2 years), Bahamas Urban Youth Development Centre and Bahamas United. There was joint collaboration between The Bahamas and Jamaica under the direction of Jamaica-based Project Director, Ruth Jankee, and with coordination from local Consultant Charo Morley in The Bahamas.

 

According to Rebecca Spotts, Deputy Director of Education of World Learning in Washington, DC, “Local organizations are best able to provide relevant care and support programs, especially when those programs are led by local individuals who deeply understand community dynamics, have trusting relationships, and are engaged in local networks.”

With focus on the younger generation, each organization worked closely with the target groups and developed strategies to reduce the HIV/AIDS infections by educating, empowering and assisting persons as well as trying to create impactful behavioural changes.

The Bahamas Red Cross Society’s social media project was designed to provide young people throughout The Bahamas with greater access to information and skill-building activities around the topics of sex, HIV and AIDS, condom use, and other related topics. There were community outreach programs, a call-in center facilitated by youth and peer counselors, and a social media Facebook page and website – www.watusyain.com - which targeted 15 to 29 year olds. “The project complemented and worked closely with the Red Cross Caribbean HIV/AIDS Prevention project,” said Carolyn Turnquest, Director-General of the Bahamas Red Cross.

The Bahamas AIDS Foundation worked closely with the community of men who have sex with men. They provided condom distribution, prevention knowledge among MSM individuals and the community through peer education and other learning opportunities. They also adapted and provided the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s group-level behavioral intervention known as Many Men Many Voices. In addition, they provided sensitive voluntary counseling and testing for the MSM community with referrals for follow-up care for MSM living with HIV.

“The AIDS Foundation has always wanted to work with the most at-risk population and this Grant enabled us to do that,” said Lady Camille Barnett who heads The Bahamas AIDS Foundation. “For two years we carried out a very intensive education with MSM. The [CGSM] program also allowed 43 persons to receive training and they will pass on what they learned.”

 

The third recipient, The Bahamas Urban Youth Development Centre themed “Making a Difference-Changing Lives” made significant strides with young women engaged in commercial sex work and educating them about the spread of HIV/AIDS. According to a study conducted which surveyed 237 sex workers in Nassau, 70 percent of female sex workers entered the trade to buy food for their children and 90 percent of all those surveyed gave paying household bills as a reason for staying in prostitution. The project’s goals were to help give the women a better understanding about the importance of knowing their status, and having regular health check-ups while providing a network of referral and support. The Centre worked with approximately 180 vulnerable females between ages 17 to 35 and they were taught HIV/AIDS education, condom negotiation and general life training skills like budgeting, money management, and job readiness.

A success story included that of a 25-year old woman who put her life as a sex worker behind her and wishes to pursue tertiary studies as a paralegal. “As a peer educator and mentor at the Centre, I am very proud of the impact I have on others,” she said.

The fourth organization, Bahamas United, produced a series of short, internet-ready videos that provided practical and culturally relevant HIV prevention information targeting at-risk young men. They used Facebook and Twitter to disseminate the videos, reinforce lessons, and provide an online forum for discussion. The target group for this project included young Bahamian men between the ages of 18 to 35. One of the videos with a powerful message can be viewed at www.protectyaself.com. World Learning stated that the production of the series of short, internet-ready culturally relevant HIV prevention messages were well received by various stakeholders, including the Bahamas Ministry of Health.

Other speakers at the Caribbean CGSM Project closing out ceremony were Dr. Glen Beneby, Chief Medical Officer at the Ministry of Health in The Bahamas, and David Allen, Political/Economic and Commercial Chief from the United States Embassy, in Nassau, Bahamas who represented USAID and PEPFAR.

Allen who assisted with overseeing the Grant congratulated Ruth Jankee and her regional World Learning staff for successfully helping to build capacity within a select group of local non-profit organizations. “I would also like to thank Charo Morley for her dedication in monitoring and evaluation of these PEPFAR foreign assistance awards, which helps us to ensure that the money provided is used as efficiently and effectively as possible. We would not be here today without her persistence and encouragement to the grantees.”

 

Allen also mentioned, “The PEPFAR Caribbean Regional Operation Plan was approved a few months ago. The subsequent work plan is being developed and I hope that as the plan unfolds, we will find new ways PEPFAR can support and build on the work done by the World Learning Grants Solicitation and Management Program.” He also added, “Let this closing ceremony be a new beginning in supporting the National HIV/AIDS Strategic Plan and the PEPFAR Bahamas Work Plan and Partnership Framework.”

Dr. Beneby thanked all NGOs and partners and said, “From the beginning of the HIV pandemic and the first reported case of HIV/AIDS in The Bahamas in 1983, the Bahamas Government has always been committed to fighting the epidemic. Without a doubt, the National HIV/AIDS program has worked closely with international partners and civil society to not only prevent new HIV infections, but also to treat, care and support persons living with HIV, along with offering support to their families.”

Photo 1: World Learning held a closing out ceremony in Nassau, Bahamas for their five-year Caribbean HIV/AIDS Grant Solicitation and Management (CGSM) Project (5 years in Jamaica and 3 years in The Bahamas). Seen in the photo are representatives of World Learning, USAID, The US Embassy, Bahamas Government and local Bahamian NGOs. From left to right are: David Allen, Political/Economic and Commercial Chief, United States Embassy, Nassau, Bahamas, Vichelle Roberts and Leslie Moore of The Bahamas Urban Youth Development Centre, Carlyne McKenzie, Bahamas AIDS Foundation (BAF), Rebecca Spotts, World Learning, Carolyn Turnquest, Bahamas Red Cross, Ruth Jankee, World Learning, Jamaica, Dr. Jennifer Knight-Johnson, USAID, Jamaica, Dr. Glen Beneby, Chief Medical Officer, Bahamas Ministry of Health, Lady Camille Barnett, BAF, and Andrice Strachan and Daryll Armbrister of the Bahamas Red Cross. (Photo credit: Azaleta Ishmael-Newry)

Photo 2: The Bahamas Red Cross was a recipient of a three-year Caribbean HIV/AIDS Grant Solicitation and Management (CGSM) Project where they were recognized for successful initiatives in HIV/AIDS educational processes. Shown in the photo is Carolyn Turnquest, Director-General for the Bahamas Red cross accepting a trophy from Dr. Jennifer Knight-Johnson, USAID, Jamaica. (Photo credit: Azaleta Ishmael-Newry)

 

Photo 3: World Learning Representative for The Bahamas and consultant, Charo Morley (right) and Lady Camille Barnett of the Bahamas AIDS Foundation (left) worked closely during a two year Caribbean HIV/AIDS Grant Solicitation and Management Project that successfully targeted and assisted high-risk men. (Photo credit: Azaleta Ishmael-Newry)

Photo 4: Members of the Urban Renewal Band entertained the guests at the World learning/USAID Closing Out Ceremony for the Caribbean HIV/AIDS Grant Solicitation and Management (CGSM) Project. The Bahamas Urban Youth Development Centre was one of the NGOs who made up 1 of 4 in the Bahamas grant program. (Photo credit: Azaleta Ishmael-Newry)

 

Originally published by http://bahamaislandsinfo.com