The overall programme, the Eastern Caribbean Community Action Project (EC-CAP) aims to increase access to HIV and AIDS services for most at risk populations through evidenced-based programming, working across four islands of the Eastern Caribbean (Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, St Kitts and Nevis and St Vincent and the Grenadines). An integral part of EC-CAP has been the promotion and distribution of female condoms following research in Antigua in 2007, which found that although there was increasing government interest to promote female condoms, little was happening in the way of promotion or distribution
A significant number of sex workers in the English speaking islands of the Eastern Caribbean are seasonal migrants from the Dominican Republic with little knowledge of the language and culture and therefore with little access to HIV and AIDS information and services.
The Hewlett Foundation funding supports work in Antigua and Barbuda, and St Kitts and Nevis. It has enabled further training for Spanish-speaking peer outreach workers and the development of innovative promotional tools. The peer outreach is carried out by community animators, which CHAA has recruited from key populations identified as most at risk of HIV.
Given the origins of migrant populations some of the activities have been undertaken in partnership with a Dominican organisation, COIN, the Centro de Orientacion e Investigacion Integral. An exchange visit and intense training programme with COIN has built the capacity of Spanish-speaking animators who have been able to develop materials focused on behaviour change, communication and female condom promotion, for use by all animators throughout Antigua and Barbuda and St Kitts and Nevis.
Comic book power
A comic promoting female condom use and printed in Spanish, ‘Ana descubre sus poderes’ (Ana discovers her powers) was led by COIN, and developed using the animators’ insights. It’s aimed at teaching and empowering female sex workers about the potential of using the female condom to prevent STIs and HIV as well as pregnancy.
Copies of the comic were distributed during one-on-one interventions with sex workers. It presents several different scenarios where female condoms can be an appropriate alternative to the male condom, such as when dealing with a drunk male client, or a client who refuses to wear a condom or offers more money for sex without wearing a condom.
The SRH/HIV outreach activities will continue, and it is expected that 5,000 comics will have been distributed by CHAA animators in both countries by the end of September 2010.