The initiative is a five-year regional project which responds to HIV and AIDS among Caribbean sex workers, men who have sex with men, socially excluded youth, drug users and prisoners. The project, currently in its second phase, now includes Guyana, Suriname and Haiti.
In her opening remarks at today’s press conference, Zenita Nicholson, Country Coordinator, announced that CVC/COIN is funding four initiatives in Guyana with each unique intervention seeking to strengthen rights-based responses in populations made vulnerable to HIV. She added that each grantee NGO received approximately USD 20, 000 for projects lasting no more than a year. Grants were awarded to Artistes in Direct Support (AIDS); Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD); Volunteer Youth Corps Inc. (VYC) and Youth Challenge Guyana (YCG). Merica George, project coordinator of AIDS stated that the objective of their project is to increase the availability of psycho-social support services for 80 young boys and men (ages 14- 24) through intense counseling sessions for as well as strengthening their knowledge on HIV, other STIs, literacy level, personal appearance and conflict resolution skills.”
Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) is working to eliminate discrimination based on sexuality, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression and achieve full equality for all Guyanese, especially lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Guyanese. Co-Chair Joel Simpson remarked that the “SASOD Cine Campaign” is an innovative approach aimed at highlighting issues of homophobia, transphobia and HIV stigma suffered by sexual and gender minorities, which deters them from positive, heath-seeking behaviours. The project will utilize mass media advocacy, social campaigning and public education to engage the Guyanese viewing public to ‘edutain’ and reduce prejudice in the country. The project will facilitate broadcast of five (5) video documentaries produced by SASOD on LGBT issues in Guyana. The documentaries capture socio-cultural factors that increase vulnerabilities of sexual and gender minorities to HIV in Guyana, and the Caribbean region.
Executive Director Goldie Scott stated that Volunteer Youth Corps Inc. (VYC) is pleased to collaborate with CVC/COIN. She added that project aims to meet 80 marginalised youths within the South Georgetown district through new and informed educational programmes to foster and enhance their creative thinking in response to HIV.
Youth Challenge Guyana (YCG) is working with sex workers Region 8 to improve their knowledge of sexual and reproductive health rights as well as their human rights so that they would be able to protect themselves and prevent new HIV infections in the local sex industry, and the general population through their clients. Their CVC/COIN funded project will reinforce information sessions with posters and videos promoting different rights-based messages for sex workers, their clients and communities, added Dmitri Nicholson, Executive Director of YCG.
CVC/COIN commits to supporting community partners to build innovative models and best practices which can be scaled up in partnership with Guyana’s National AIDS Programme. Community Mobilisation Coordinator at the National AIDS Programme Secretariat, Mr. Nazim Hussain, indicated that we have to see people for who they are and treat them with respect. A rights-based approach is integral in the response to HIV and AIDS, and for the reduction of stigma and discrimination. He reiterated that these 4 new local projects which were in keeping with the “HIVision 2020” – Guyana’s National Strategic Plan on HIV and AIDS.
In closing, Nicholson encouraged organisations working in the HIV response to apply for the CVC/COIN 2014 call for proposals which is expected to be released later this year.