Nepal’s peer-based community organisations engage in joint ITPC training initiative

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Asia Pacific Regional Correspondent
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Community representatives from JMMS, NUNN and Blue Diamond Society upon completing ITPC Treatment Literacy Training, Kathmandu, Nepal, January, 2015. Photo attributed to NUNN Nepal. 

Representatives from three of Nepal’s national peer-led community organisations, Jagriti Mahila Maha Sangh (JMMS, the Federation of Female Sex Workers in Nepal), the National Users Network of Nepal (NUNN), and the Blue Diamond Society (Nepal’s national Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans*, Intersex and Queer peer-led organisation) recently attended a 3 day HIV treatment literacy training program facilitated by the staff of NUNN and Friends Group, a peer-based PLWHA support and advocacy organisation.

The 3 day training program, held between 26-28 January, 2015, in Thamel, Kathmandu, was supported by the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition (ITPC) and primarily focused on increasing participant’s knowledge of, and familiarity with: HIV transmission and prevention; understanding the physiological aspects of the HIV virus; World Health Organisation (WHO) definitions of the clinical staging of HIV; opportunistic infections; ARV/ ART treatment options; and clinical terminology associated with HIV treatment. The comprehensive training package also explored co-infection issues associated with tuberculosis and/or hepatitis B and C.

Participants from the sex worker community included representatives from JMMS’s regional member organisations. As Nepal’s only peer-led sex worker network for female sex workers, JMMS is the country’s umbrella organisation for 26 geographically disparate peer-led sex worker networks. 

Aswin Thapa, President of NUNN, said “NUNN are extremely pleased to have the opportunity to include sex workers and members of the LGBTIQ community in our training initiative. Given that members of both the sex worker and LGBTIQ community self-identify as drug users and that these 2 communities face similar issues to illicit drug users in that we are similarly discriminated against, criminalised and are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS, NUNN recognises the necessity of working with other peer-led community networks to create solidarity, address intersectional issues and to build a strong foundation for Nepal’s peer-led networks. NUNN hopes that the ITPC training will directly contribute towards the sustainability of our 3 communities and that the participants in this program will use their knowledge of HIV treatment issues and terminology to advocate for increased community access to ARV treatment, particularly in rural areas where HIV positive people often face geographic and economic barriers to treatment.”

Devi, a member of a JMMS member organisation added, “This training has been extremely useful for representatives of JMMS’s member groups. We all learnt a lot and we will use our increased awareness of HIV issues in our advocacy, peer education and outreach work. I also feel that it was important that members of JMMS had the opportunity to meet representatives of the drug user and LGBTIQ communities. We all made new friends and I hope that representatives from our respective organisations will maintain contact with each other in both a personal and professional capacity. Sex workers from JMMS’s regional member groups have previously identified that they sometimes feel isolated whilst undertaking their work. It is my sincere hope that with the new friendships they have formed with members of other key affected populations from their regions they will feel more supported in their work. ” 

Under the direction of Loon Gangte, South Asia’s ITPC Regional Coordinator, the ITPC has recently been supporting national organisations within the South Asian region to undertake similar capacity development HIV literacy training for both members of communities affected by HIV/AIDS and health care workers.

HIV treatment literacy training, facilitated by Binod Gurung, NUNN, Nepal. Kathmandu, January, 2015. Photo attributed to NUNN Nepal.