In the wake of the Government's March closure of the National Aids Coordinating Committee (NACC), the country's main mechanism for coordination and distribution of resources for responses to HIV since 2004, NGOs worried about how to sustain programmes to fight the epidemic.They were particularly concerned because, unlike in the rest of the region, the epidemic does not show the same promise of relenting in Trinidad and Tobago.However, good news has come for the country's oldest group serving gay and bisexual men, one of the population's most vulnerable to infection by HIV.
An international foundation has selected Friends for Life among nine Caribbean groups receiving funding from a special initiative. The programme was set up in 2007 because "the world's inability to prevent widespread HIV infection among men who have sex with men is one of the greatest public health failures in the fight against Aids."The funding, from amfAR: the Foundation for Aids Research, will help Friends for Life strengthen the life skills counselling they provide to help their clients maintain safe practices and cope with the discrimination and hurt they face daily.
They will also make educational material and HIV prevention devices, like condoms, and lubricants, available to participants in the programme. The group's president is also hopeful about a new partnership being ironed out with the Ministry of Health on a forward-thinking initiative to target HIV testing to harder-to-reach groups who are especially vulnerable to HIV. "This new initiative allows us to bring testing services to our community members in a non-judgemental caring environment," said Luke Sinnette."Too many times gay men and trans persons just do not go to get tested because of the way they are treated when they go to public health facilities." Both projects involve partnerships with faith-based groups and with long-standing sexual health organisations. Services will also be offered to male sex workers.