Gender programmes

The importance of gender gained prominence as a result of the impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic particularly on vulnerable populations.  Currently in the Caribbean there is no clear definition of gender, nor are we able to definitively say how many genders exist.  As a result gender programming is still inadequate and insufficient.  In most countries the only visible evidence of gender programmes are those impacting women and girls, and even these efforts fall short of meeting the needs of vulnerable women and girls in our region.  Examination of these programmes shows a focus on sex workers, on pregnant women and youth in a broad context, in addition they are often not supported by many of the current laws and regulations.   
UNAIDS (KS3, 2011), offers the following definitions of gender:
•    Transgender: a person whose gender identity and biological gender do not match up.  This is not purely emotional; it is also physical and biological because it has a lot to do with the hormones.  It is important to note that the trans person is not gay; they can be identified as straight, bisexual, gay or trans, hence the offence when this trans population is classified as Men who have sex with Men
•    Transsexuals: A transsexual person understands that their gender identity and biological gender do not match and have accepted it; they do not need to have gender reassignment surgery
•    Transvestites: Are heterosexual men who  so love women that they cross dress to feel closer to females
•    Drag Queens: Are gay men who cross dress for entertainment purposes (cabaret, sex work etc.)
•    Gay Men: Are men who like men, they are comfortable with identifying as men (whether they are effeminate or not); they identify themselves as men who like men.
In terms of gender programming and the HIV response, every effort must be made to involve key populations in planning and implementation of initiatives to ensure that the needs of everyone will be taken into account.   In addition discussions around gender and its impact must be actively initiated at every level and outcomes clearly reflected in programme planning and design.  
Finally, it is recommended that the scope of Gender Ministries and departments be expanded to focus on all gender not just female or males.   A more holistic definition of gender, based on sound evidence is needed so that all gender, including transgender will be catered for both nationally and regionally.
For more information on Gender and the HIV Response visit:
www.unaidscaribbean.org
www.caribbeanhivalliance.org
car.unwomen.org