Alliance partner Promoteurs Objectif Zerosida (POZ), with funding from the Big Lottery Fund, has made great progress in the first year of a programme to address this issue and increase uptake of prevention, treatment and support services in Cap Haitien, Jacmel and Port-au-Prince. HIV positive outreach workers and community leaders from diverse social sectors – including the church and local authorities – have reached over 13,000 people with anti-stigma messages.
“I’ve been living with HIV for 10 years and have been raising awareness about HIV prevention for a long time now,” says outreach worker Mreus Merisier, 47. “I talked about HIV to a mature couple and one day they decided to take a test. The husband’s test was positive while the wife’s was negative. The couple broke up when the wife left home, but I took the time to find her, give her counselling and reconcile her with her husband. I’m very happy with this achievement; I think it’s my contribution to the fight against HIV.”
POZ mobilised and trained 121 HIV positive outreach workers to tackle stigma and give psychosocial support to other people living with HIV through counselling and referrals. More than 3,000 people have been referred to services.
“I have been working as an outreach worker to give others the kind of support I received when first affected by the virus,” says Chantal Cadet, 41, who has been living with HIV for 14 years. “This has allowed me to give hope, particularly to someone who was on the verge of suicide after testing positive. Thanks to the training I received from the project, I was able to convince this person to accept his HIV status. He’s on treatment now and I’m going be his counsellor.”
The programme also works to raise health care providers’ awareness of discriminatory behaviour. Several anti-stigma training events have been held and POZ has agreed strategies with providers to improve the friendliness of HIV and other health services at three sites.
The programme has reached the general public through radio and large public events: around 40,000 radio listeners have heard shows encouraging them to change their attitudes towards people living with HIV. Two of the project's peer outreach workers disclosed their HIV status on air and described the difficulties they have faced in their communities.
More than 6,000 people attended public theatre and dance events led by people living with HIV. These included a speech by Pastor D'lince Pierre, an influential former member of the chief executive of the Haitian Baptist Church, who encouraged those present to support HIV positive members of their community.