Worried about the seeming discrimination perpetrated by health-care providers to members of the homosexual community, the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG) has embarked on a training programme for medical personnel.
Between September and November last year, J-FLAG in partnership with the National HIV STI Programme trained 60 public-health workers to deal with members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community.
This was in keeping with the National HIV Strategy (2012-2017) which recommends that all categories of health-care workers be trained in human rights and in providing services for men who have sex with men (MSM) to mitigate the likelihood of discrimination.
Of the health-care workers who were trained last year, 65 per cent of them had never been trained about MSM-related health issues and 93 per cent had never been trained to offer counselling about anal sex.
The public-health workers included doctors, nurses, contact investigators, laboratory technicians, peer educators, and ward assistants from all four health regions trained.
Six persons from the National Family Planning Board were also trained.
A 10-module training curriculum covering a wide range of issues relating to the provision of services and specific issues affecting the LGBT community was used.
These included topics on sexuality, values and attitudes, sexual health of MSM, and communication.
The participants were exposed to members of the LGBT community, and a panel of six young gay and bisexual men who shared their experiences and answered questions from participants openly.
Cleared up misconceptions
This allowed the participants to see the diversity of the LGBT community, as well as serving to clear up many of the misconceptions that were held.
Focus group discussions were conducted prior to the workshop to gauge the attitudes and feelings of the health-care workers around providing services to members of the LGBT community.
Half of the participants were relatively knowledgeable about these issues but only 24 per cent scored about 70 per cent.
Following the training, one-third of the participants said the workshop inspired them to change their thinking about the LGBT people, while 63 per cent felt that they were already tolerant, some at the stage of acceptance and others are working on celebrating and promoting LGBT individuals.
The vast majority of participants said the workshop was useful to enhance their work, and that they were more exposed to the unique issues faced by LGBT people.