Caribbean: Health workers join forces to fight AIDS in the Caribbean (May 2006)


Nurses from 20 Caribbean nations recently met in Barbados to create a mission statement to guide their work in the upcoming year and to discuss ways to improve their work as educators, advocates, and care of people living HIV/AIDS patients.

The meeting was an effort of the Caribbean HIV/AIDS Regional Training Initiative (CHART), a U.S. Government (USG) project funded through the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR/ Emergency Plan) to ensure that the region builds a cadre of highly-trained, committed professionals to help combat HIV/AIDS by training health practitioners and encouraging them to work together.

"Given the changing nature of the HIV epidemic, health care worker burnout, and the out-migration of many Caribbean professionals, ongoing training is essential to sustaining an HIV/AIDS trained workforce in the Caribbean," says Angela Davis, USAID's project management specialist.

With Emergency Plan support, CHART runs five training centers in the Bahamas, Haiti, Jamaica, and Barbados, which are supported by a regional coordinating unit in Jamaica. At the start of 2006, more than 100 doctors, nurses, and other health practitioners had been trained as trainers to spread their knowledge to other health workers. Another 1,200 health care workers had completed multidisciplinary training that includes development of national HIV/AIDS work plans.

In addition to providing training, the project also holds workshops addressing stigma and discrimination against HIV patients. A recent survey of CHART training participants found that the majority feel more confident, more compassionate, and more sensitive to issues of stigma and discrimination. "My most important lesson came from interacting with people living with HIV/AIDS - this did a lot for me," notes one CHART participant. "It helped me to be a better counselor. I began to take more time with [my HIV/AIDS patients.]"

CHART also coordinates and shares HIV/ AIDS information with key organizations including the Caribbean Health Research Council, the Caribbean Epidemiology Centre, and the Coalition of Caribbean National AIDS Program Coordinators. The groups share best practices and lessons learned, which in turn helps achieve a more standardized and consistent approach to combating AIDS.

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