The beautiful Caribbean island nation of Jamaica is renowned for its turquoise waters, white sandy beaches and unique musical styles. Less well known is that the population of this stunning country is plagued by one of the highest rates of HIV in the Caribbean. An extraordinary partnership between an Australian nurse and several local organizations sought to address this issue through an innovative suite of programs designed to empower Jamaicans protect themselves from HIV.
In 2013, Beth Thompson took a leave of absence from her nursing position at Melbourne’s Alfred Hospital and accepted an assignment at Mandeville Hospital in Manchester Parish, Jamaica. There she met Breds, an NGO that promotes education and healthcare in Jamaica’s under-developed south coast.
With the support of the Alfred Hospital, Beth and Breds developed a training program to educate women on the intricately related dual-dangers of domestic violence and HIV. Beth reports that TeachAIDS formed the “backbone” of the training sessions. She notes that the TeachAIDS materials were ideal for this purpose as they are appropriate for people of all ages and backgrounds, they convey information in a fun and engaging way, and they make the information easy to retain.
Beth and Breds collaborated with Eve For Life, Woman's Inc Crisis Centre, MAC AIDS Fund, and the Treasure Beach Women's Group to roll out the training program in several locations in St. Elizabeth Parish. In addition to high school students and members of a women’s group, a group of HIV positive “mentor mums” trained by Eve for Life participated in the workshops. These mentor mums will continue to spread HIV prevention messages to members of their communities.
The collaboration demonstrates the inspirational potential of building the capacity of local organizations and individuals. Beth notes that the local partners and workshop participants quickly came to own the project: “once educated they were able to take control of the project, make it their own, and run it their way. They were so creative!”.
Beth joins a global community of committed health professionals who use TeachAIDS to provide HIV and AIDS education at clinics, youth centers, and workshops around the world. She plans to return to Jamaica later in 2015 to continue this work.
We applaud this remarkable collaboration between Beth and her many local partners for their tireless work to help the people of Jamaica protect themselves from HIV, and for bringing TeachAIDS to the magnificent shores of Jamaica.Photo: HIV education workshop facilitators and participants at Newell High School, Jamaica