With a targeted approach to tackle police ill-treatment of persons in minority groups, ranks from several departments of the Guyana Police Force benefited from yet another sensitisation training on Tuesday, this time on HIV stigma and discrimination and human rights.
Organised by the National AIDS Programme Secretariat (NAPS), the two-day training session is part of efforts to tackle stigma and discrimination as outlined in the recently launched National HIV Strategic Plan (2021 – 2025).
It also comes as victims of sexual violence, people living with HIV, and other vulnerable persons continue to report that among the discrimination they face comes from professionals and service providers.
As a consequence, this training by NAPS will be extended to professionals in the judiciary, education sector, health care workers, and Members of Parliament (MPs).
During brief opening remarks, Programme Manager of NAPS, Dr Tariq Jagnarine, said it was “sad” that almost 40 years after the onset of HIV/AIDS, stigma and discrimination continue to be an issue for persons living with the virus.
The first HIV case was confirmed in Guyana in 1987.
Dr Jagnarine said despite legal protection and some reduction in the ignorance and fear about HIV, people are still denied and fired from jobs, kicked out of residences, ordered to limit contact with family and generally discriminated against.
“Perhaps most shockingly, healthcare personnel and members of law enforcement have been known to stigmatise patients with HIV. In some cases, refusing to treat them or providing substandard care,” he said.
Recognising that stigma and discrimination is fuelled by ignorance, the NAPS Head said training like this is important. A major part of the training is the police response to persons of sexual violence, regardless of their sexual orientation and sexual identity.
The police ranks were reminded of the critical role they play in offering the first level of care to persons reporting sexual abuse, including post-exposure prophylaxis.
Those who were a part of the training included ranks from the Immigration, Traffic, Suicide, Finance, and Welfare, among other departments of the force.
At the end of the training on Wednesday, they will be expected to strengthen their response to victims of violence and recognise key population rights to protection and services.
The workshop aims generally to ensure that persons living with HIV can access services and lead full and dignified lives, free from discrimination, harassment, extortion and arbitrary arrest and detention.
Similar workshops were conducted with the police in recent years by the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD).