Meet the 2020 Healthcare Provider Champions
Gastón Devisich nominated Romina Mauas for:
As a physician she embraced her inner general practitioner and made ours a two-way relationship: one in which she could give but also be given. She has walked that extra mile.
Last year, RAJAP hosted a workshop on integral health during its 9th National Meeting and, to my surprise, Romina was the first one to accept the invitation. There, she sat and exchanged with over 250 young people and adolescents living with HIV, from all around the country. She has been warm and receptive, everything we needed her to be. Her being a part of my activism made me look back on how far we both have come.
After 8 years (and a rocky start!), we came to find allies in each other. From just focusing on test results, we began to actually listen to one another and our appointments ended up lasting longer. Decisions started to be made together and suddenly social aspects about living with HIV became part of the conversation. There was as much for her to learn from me as I did from her.
Argentina had reported over 5800 new HIV incidences last year, 40% of which belonged to adolescents and young people aged 15 to 29 years old. Moreover, HIV prevalence among the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer/questioning, asexual (LGBTIQA+) community is high (34% in transgender women and 15% in men who have sex with men (MSM)). We not only need holistic services that can address the differential needs of our populations, but also to bring them closer for those of us who need them the most..
Romina Mauas: I am #DoingTheRightThing because…
Honestly, I was very young when I chose to study medicine, driven by a huge desire to help and care for others. Over the years I have discovered an altruistic and exciting profession. And so, I got specialized in infectious diseases and HIV. I have been guided by great mentors with the same desire: to do the right thing for our patients and above all, providing people living with HIV a health service with a holistic and humanistic approach.
I understand that each country´s HIV epidemic is quite unique, taking into account their particular epidemiological and social contexts.
THE TURNING POINT FOR ME WAS has been a rather personal process that started by listening to my patients’ needs and life stories beyond their medical records.
People living with HIV are a daily inspiration of courage and resilience, deserving additional support and love. I have always been fighting to reduce stigma and discrimination against HIV, and other forms of social marginalization.
A few years ago, I had the opportunity to be trained in motivational interviewing, which not only promotes empathy and acceptance, but also respects personal autonomy. Non-judgmental attitudes are fundamental to creating a warm atmosphere, and this type of collaborative interview training provided me with the necessary tools to achieve common goals with my patients.
In respect to the International AIDS Society recognition, it is not only a recognition for me, but for all the HIV physicians and people living with HIV around the world who fight every day for equality. I am thankful to the International AIDS Society for this campaign and especially to Gastón for his lovely nomination.
Maria nominated Daisy Atieno Kwala for:
Providing a client-centered approach to female sex workers at the Bar Hostess Empowerment and Support Programme in Nairobi, Kenya. Daisy recognizes that sex work is work. And she works every day to promote good health especially in the areas of HIV and economic empowerment. She has been selfless in providing services which she extends beyond the clinic to promote personal well-being of an individual regardless of their HIV status and/or association with a key population group.
Her passion towards the community is something to admire. I remember during Covid-19 pandemic which hit people living with HIV differently, she was able to ensure that all clients in her care had long term refills. In some instances, she was out of her own goodwill forced to go an extra mile to conduct door to door visits. That is, she dispensed community antiretroviral treatment, provided individualized support and also made sure that we are adhering well to treatment amidst this Covid-19 scare.
Daisy to me is a champion because as my health care provider because she offers friendly services at the drop-in center and also in the community without any form of stigma and discrimination. Sometimes using her own resources, she visits and offers support and advice to income generating activity groups that were formed under her leadership. To me, Daisy is a symbol of hope and resilience towards a stigma-free society. .
Daisy Atieno Kwala: I am #DoingTheRightThing because…
I am advocating for a stigma free society for people living with HIV. I create awareness and sensitize my fellow health care workers to offer friendly key population services and improve the quality of health care within their jurisdiction. I promote positive living amongst sex workers living with HIV and improve their livelihoods through providing technical support in economic empowerment ventures as an additional source of income. Sex workers are brothers and sisters to me.
THE TURNING POINT FOR ME WAS when one day in my normal roles of conducting differentiated service delivery to clients under my care, I was linked to Maria, who was bed-ridden and had been unwell for close to 4 months. During my adherence counselling sessions, she disclosed to me that she is a sex worker and was afraid to go to the hospital because of her previous experience at one of the mission hospitals. At that hospital, her morals were condemned instead of providing her with the services she required. It was the only center in the community and the health care workers providing services there knew her well. They knew that she was a sex worker – as the health care workers were part of the community where she lived. This indeed broke my heart. It was a turning point for me and I had to think on how I can address and create awareness on the issue of health care workers’ stigma towards key populations.
I managed to convince Maria to follow me to the Bar Hostess Empowerment and Support Programme (BHESP) – a sex workers led organizations that treats sex workers with the love and dignity they deserve through a support programme. Like for many others in my care, it was not an easy journey to Maria to make. I walked with her, as the experience she had is one I wouldn’t wish on anyone.
There is still a gap in providing stigma-free services to key populations. With this award, I encourage my fellow health care providers to DO THE RIGHT THING. People from the key population are humans just like us.
Olu Bello nominated Dele Fayemi for:
His friendly disposition towards me as a person who uses drugs. It is very strange to see a peer educator embrace people who use drugs or other marginalized groups in Nigeria. There is a lot of stigma and discrimination against people who use drugs in Nigeria, especially people who inject drugs. People who use drugs are considered criminals and misfits. I am a businessman here in Abuja. I am not a fraudster neither am I a criminal.
My first meeting with Dele was very welcoming. He received and counselled me on safer ways I can maintain a healthy lifestyle so that I do not contract HIV or any other blood-borne diseases. He was very friendly. This is unlike what is attainable from some other peer educators. Most of them will insult you for using drugs and will make you wish to attempt suicide. But Mr Dele is different. He is a healthcare professional who should be celebrated. He is a champion indeed for providing free counselling and non-discriminatory services to young people especially those who use drugs in Abuja.
Dele Fayemi: I am #DoingTheRightThing because…
My reason for engaging in stigma free counselling services for marginalized groups, especially people who use drugs, is due to the level of poor support and discrimination against them in Nigeria. In Nigeria, people who use drugs are punished when caught. My country is yet to fully acknowledge the fact that people who use drugs need medical support – especially people who inject drugs. Punishment is not a good option.
THE TURNING POINT FOR ME WAS came when I visited a university where many students who were afraid to talk about their drug problems were open to talk to me. I was able to render professional peer education and counselling to them. For people who inject drugs, I shared with them information about harm reduction which will protect them from contracting blood-borne diseases like HIV. Through my organization, Students for Sensible Drug Policy Nigeria, I am able to sensitize young people who use drugs on safer methods and how to protect themselves. They confide in me and trust that I will not discriminate against them.