Andy Mulraine, outreach worker at a partner of the Caribbean HIV/AIDS Alliance, on the tough life faced by people living with HIV in Trinidad and Tobago.
It’s tough for anyone living with HIV in Trinidad and Tobago. Where I live free antiretrovirals (ARVs) are available, even pregnant mothers who are HIV positive are treated with free ARVs during their last trimester. However, there are only three treatment sites for the entire nation of 1.3 million. Many people are forced to travel long distances to access treatment.
There are discussions to decentralise HIV treatment services because people face stigma and discrimination. The idea was to have these facilities available at all of the nation’s health centres, but this has been slow to implement as these centres need to be refurbished to a higher standard.
There are many civil society organisations that offer support to HIV-positive people along with HIV support organisations that offer social and psychological care to those infected and affected.
I see the biggest challenge in my country to be the referral system. The national HIV programme that exists is not as comprehensive as it should be. Many people have died waiting to get the help they needed. There is little support available to live a positive life with HIV.
My country is aware of MDG6 and a lot has been put in place so far. There is a draft national HIV workplace policy and other sector policies at different government ministries. However, the draft is now waiting for approval for the attorney general’s office.
The international community should assist my country by partnering and collaborating with examples, such as the Aids drug assistance programme for Caribbean immigrants in America. That programme is comprehensive and has a host of stakeholders identified to assist in the immediate response to referrals and social services.
There should be more technical and financial assistance available to community-based organisations that facilitate the work on the ground. There should also be at least two hospices where HIV-positive people could go to while they are recovering their health so they can go back out to work. HIV-positive people are citizens of this country too.
This article was first published on the Guardian Global Development site.