SASOD receives Red Ribbon Award Cheque and Debriefs on Melbourne AIDS Conference

On Thursday, January 22, 2015, the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) in collaboration with the Joint United Nations Programme on AIDS (UNAIDS) hosted a debriefing session on the 20th International AIDS Conference and received the cheque for winning the Red Ribbon Award in the category of Human Rights and Advocacy at Moray House in Georgetown.
The session, chaired by SASOD’s Social Change Coordinator Chelauna Providence, provided a platform for representatives from the national delegation who attended the conference to present and share how they are implementing the lessons learnt from the conference, discuss their progress with other key stakeholders, including the media, and allow an opportunity for questions and feedback from stakeholders.
The panel discussion was moderated by SASOD’s Managing Director, Joel Simpson, and featured four panelists who formed part of the national delegation attending the conference in Melbourne, Australia last July: Royston Savory, Prevention Officer at Family Awareness Consciousness Togetherness (FACT) in Corriverton, Berbice; Antonio Paul, Transgender Community Advocate from Region 3; Dr. Ruth Ramos, Director of the National Care and Treatment Centre, Ministry of Health; and Dr. Shanti Singh-Anthony, Programme Manager of the National AIDS Programme Secretariat, Ministry of Health.

Panelists (l-r) - Dr. Shanti Singh-Anthony, Dr. Ruth Ramos, Antonio Paul and Royston Savory

Antonio Paul shared that the Conference gave him a broader perspective on the challenges facing transgender communities. Even in countries where laws protect transgender individuals they are still faced with a plethora of issues. He reiterated the importance of advocacy to put a spotlight on these often-forgotten groups. “It is essential that minority groups have a voice, one that is heard and in a positive way; a voice that consistently demands rights,” Paul stated to nods from other stakeholders in attendance.
Dr. Singh-Anthony in her presentation shared that the International AIDS Conference renews hope and optimism that an end to AIDS is possible. “It provides an opportunity for learning about key developments and for sharing important progress,” she said. Dr. Singh-Anthony found the conference insightful as it made her aware that more often than not in our care and treatment programmes, children and young people are being left behind. “Greater emphasis is being placed in the pediatric and adolescent programmes to include and ensure the adequate and appropriate management of children who are eligible for anti-retroviral treatment. The National AIDSProgramme Secretariat (NAPS) also intends to factor in the dynamics of working with adolescents to ensure better services and better quality of life,” she explained. Dr. Singh-Anthony noted that NAPS will continue to think of innovative ways of reaching key populations.She expressed particular gratitude for the information that is coming forward about transgender persons as this will help NAPS to understand and better serve this long-neglected and stigmatized minority group.
Dr. Ramos shared that the ultimate goal of the National Care and Treatment Centre is to target and test everyone. She noted that they are also working assiduously on not just decreasing, but eliminating, mother- to-child transmission. Dr. Ramos highlighted one of the greatest challenges that the Centre faces is adherence to medication and keeping patients on care. As we move forward, Dr. Ramos encouraged everyone to be more aggressive, more enthusiastic and to place more emphasis on tackling the issue daily.
The panel discussion was followed by questions from the gathering. Dr. Yoran Grant – Greene, Country Director of the US Centre for Disease Control in Guyana asked the panelists to pinpoint, if any, any peer-to-peer strategies or methods for working and reaching key populations discussed at the conference. SASOD’s Simpson mentioned the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) as a platform for interventions to reach key populations with HIV prevention information. He also called on the donor community to support more of these kinds of innovative initiatives that would enable community groups to use ICT in their work. FACT’s Savory also noted the use of social networking in the Berbice area.
UNAIDS Country Director, Dr. Roberto Brant Campos, delivered special remarks and presented SASOD with a cheque of US$ 10,000 for winning the Red Ribbon Award.  Dr. Campos, noted that “in a world where, as we all know, LGBT communities are castigated as third-class citizens, having their humanity and dignity frequently denied, and their rights not respected, is an honor to present this prize given to SASOD. It is more than recognition of its excellent work; it is a symbolic prize to all LGBT communities, not only in Guyana but in the whole Caribbean region and a stimulus to them to pursue in their quest for a better world for all; and, specifically, for a world without AIDS.” On behalf of the Red Ribbon Award programme and UNAIDS, he thanked and congratulated SASOD for its exemplary work. He also exerted all LGBT communities to keep the fire burning and be inspired towards a world free of the HIV epidemic.

Mr. Joel Simpson receiving the Red Ribbon Award Prize Money for Dr. Roberto Brant Campos, UNAIDS Country Director

The prize money from the Red Ribbon Award will go towards SASOD’s LGBT Community Centre Fund. The multi-purpose LGBT Community Centre will serve as the secretariat for SASOD, provide office space for other LGBT groups and provide temporary housing for LGBT youths facing homelessness and other services LGBT Guyanese. The public was encouraged to donate to SASOD’s LGBT Community Centre Fund either at its Charlotte Street office or directly through Scotiabank Account Number 10024548.