Improvement of HIV Care in the Caribbean through sharing of Best Practices By Dr Abiola Jacobs

Over the years HIV care has advanced with the use of antiretroviral therapy and the pharmaceutical companies continue to develop better drugs. The Caribbean has had access to some of these newly developed drugs such as the integrase inhibitor, Dolutegravir and this has been added to treatment guidelines. Some countries including The Bahamas in our diaspora have taken on the PrEP initiative. But is there a secret race to be the best country in the Caribbean as it relates to HIV Care or is it that we are aiming to achieve one common goal: control of the HIV epidemic and will use the "together we stand but divided we fall" approach?

The South to South Learning Exchange held in the Bahamas from May 6-10, 2019 provided an opportunity for Caribbean countries to really reflect and focus on their best practices in HIV care in the region.

Through the use of vision boards each country highlighted the success and 'let their guards down' in sharing openly the challenges they face in their national programmes. On a daily basis we reflected on our vision boards, thinking through solutions to these challenges.

Countries working on their vision boards
Trinidad's vision board being discussed
Guyana's vision board being discussed
Jamaica's vision board being discussed

Although we came from different cultural backgrounds we brought experience and knowledge which proved to be instrumental in assisting our programmes.

The Bahamian HIV team sharing their experiences

The Bahamian HIV team was lauded for their 'people centered' approach even in the face of stigma and discrimination. One nurse shared her experience in contact tracing and how she craftily obtains information from the clients. "If I know my client is in a relationship with someone, I call that person and I say oh I am calling because a partner of yours from 5 to 10 years ago has contracted a STI and I would like you to come in for testing, I never give out my client's information, I protect my clients." And when asked if the clients she calls visit for testing she responded, "yes ma'am they come."

The Bahamian HIV programme go the extra mile for the benefit of the patients. One nurse said "hey I will take my patients to breakfast if that would help them come to clinic."

We as a Caribbean people in the fight against the HIV epidemic have one common goal which is to eliminate and prevent the transmission of HIV in the region. This exchange made us realise even more what is important, and that is teamwork and commitment to the cause. We are stronger together when the plethora of differences are set aside and we serve our people, who need us.

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