To reduce the transmission of sexually transmitted infections and HIV among our vulnerable population and prevent re-infection by promoting a healthy lifestyle
SASH Bahamas was established in March of 2005 in response to a concern by Dr. Herbert Orlander, Consultant in Dermatology, Tropical and Genito-Urinary Medicine at the Princess Margaret Hospital. Dr. Orlander’s concern was based in the realization that there were certain portions of society who were at greater risk for becoming infected with STIs and HIV who were not being screened or educated about their risks. Mr. Victor Rollins took up the call and SASH Bahamas was born with a focus to the men-who have sex with men (MSM) population.
During the early years, SASH Bahamas’ work was primary in the area of promoting testing and screening for STIs and HIV, with the assistance of the HIV/AIDS Center, Nurse Rosemae Bain and her staff, along with counseling, peer education, educational outreach, care and support from SASH volunteers. With careful strategic planning SASH Bahamas has now expanded its programmes to include Provider-Initiated Testing and Counseling (PITC) and rapid HIV testing under the supervision of the HIV/AIDS center. SASH
Bahamas also ensures access to comprehensive care for persons living with HIV within this vulnerable community.
SASH Bahamas provides services to the MSM community through its social condom marketing campaign as well as through the provision of educational materials and magazines. One such magazine that is provided at no costs to members is the Trinidad-based magazine “Free Forum”. SASH Bahamas also works closely with the National HIV/AIDS Programme and the Ministry of Health in the collecting of data from among this highly secluded group so that public health programmes and services can be designed to capture and meet the needs of the MSM community where possible. The greatest service that SASH Bahamas provides however is that of being a ‘confidant’. Peer counselors and leaders are instrumental in providing the advice and direction that is sought by numerous individuals coming to terms with lifestyle choices and/or STI or HIV infections.
Between 2009 and 2010, SASH Bahamas recorded considerable success in volunteer recruitment and in moving its inventory. In terms of human resource, SASH management and volunteer teams grew from eight persons to more than twenty-five individuals. This growth has highlighted the need for SASH to acquire a dedicated office space from which to operate. Additionally, SASH was able to distribute more than 10,000 condoms as well as provide other preventative interventions between 2009 and 2010. The distribution occurred at activities which were held among six night spots in different locations, as well as at beach and house parties. New targets have been set for this fiscal year 2011-2012.
Beginning in the summer of 2009, SASH has been able to facilitate the access of health services for its members through the services of Dr Phillippa Pratt-O’Brien. These health services ranged from HIV testing to screening for second-stage syphilis and other sexually transmitted infections. SASH was also instrumental in increasing access to health screenings for chronic non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension, through the facilitation of testing parties. A few of these activities also served as a source of information for The Bahamas 2010 UNGASS report for HIV/AIDS.
SASH Bahamas hosted a two-day workshop for ‘House’ leaders at the Hilton Hotel during September 2010. During this activity, techniques were taught to thirty participants for capacity building in leadership skills as MSM youth Leaders. This activity was co-sponsored by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the Bahamas Association of Houses.
In late 2010, SASH Bahamas was successful in obtaining approval for a grant in the sum of $10,000.00. These funds, supplied by UNAIDS, will be used to develop, design and circulate culturally sensitive material for the MSM population.
During December 2010, ten SASH volunteers successfully participated in Provider-Initiated Testing and Counseling (PITC) courses hosted by the HIV Centre. In addition, two volunteers, Ms. Alicia Carey and
Mr. Wenzel Farrington, have successfully completed phlebotomy courses.
Finally, Victor Rollins has been asked to continue to serve on the Caribbean Treatment Action Group (C-TAG) Board, bringing his total years of service to three. The C-TAG provides assistance through small grants and technical assistance to NGOs and civil society groups that are active in the arenas of HIV/AIDS and human rights.
Above all, however, SASH successfully completed the steps and satisfied requirements to become a legal non-governmental organization in The Bahamas in 2010. This was assisted by funding by C-TAG.
SASH Bahamas also represented The Bahamas at various workshops and training events in the Region, including Brazil, Haiti, Dominica, Trinidad, Guyana, Curacao, and Jamaica. Travel to these activities were sponsored by, OSA, SASOD, CARICOM, UNODC, PANCAP, The Brazilian Government, UNAIDS, CVC.
The Way Forward
Presently, SASH Bahamas operates from a location within the National HIV Centre in the royal Victoria Gardens in Nassau, Bahamas. It is a firmly held belief that for SASH Bahamas to be fully effective, it needs an independent location from which to operate. Additional projects and goals for the upcoming year include obtaining technical assistance in locating funding streams, capacity building of volunteers, increasing capacity to assist with transportation to SASH-sponsored events, and the acquisition of computers to facilitate further training. Service expansion includes consolidating the in-roads mad into the Creole community and the scope of services provided to at-risk teens. As the year progresses, SASH Bahamas intends to incorporate the Arts in it’s messaging through the use of Edutainment Initiatives.
During the month of February, eight volunteers are scheduled to participate in a Peer Educator workshop being hosted by the Red Cross Societies. Additionally, SASH Bahamas’ Youth Department is planning to host its first Teen Summit later in February.
SASH Bahamas has also been invited to serve on the local committee for the upcoming Caribbean HIV/AIDS Conference to be held in The Bahamas from November 18 to 21 2011 at the Atlantis Resort, Paradise Island.
It is further expected that SASH Bahamas’ volunteer pool will increase as the demand increases for new programmes being brought on stream such as during 2011. SASH plans on expanding its reach through the introduction of initiatives to provide support, as needed, to adults, young people over 15 years and the corporate community. To this end SASH Bahamas will embark on an aggressive volunteer-recruitment drive which will culminate with the Caribbean HIV/AIDS Conference and World AIDS
Day/Week, in November and December of 2011.
One of the goals of SASH Bahamas is to open a test site of its own, specifically for its target groups, where MSM can have tests and talk freely about what is bothering them.
As SASH Bahamas shapes its programmatic response for 2011-12 I believe that one of the most important challenges facing us all is the dramatic transformation and the rapidly changing global economic climate and its likely on donors funding as we have seen so far, as last year went.
In this regard is why SASH Bahamas has with great speed began to further tool up its management team, and volunteers to ensure that we all possess the skills and the understanding to adjust to this uncertain climate and remain as faithful as we can to the needs of our clients. The dedicated staff and volunteers of SASH Bahamas will continue to respond to the needs of the valuable community
I wish to thank our Advisors, Management Team, Volunteers, Donors, Corporate Sponsors, and our partners Like Dr. Graham Cates, New Providence Community Church, the HIV/AIDS Center , PAHO for your dedication and support to SASH Bahamas work in 2009-2010 and we look forward to your continued support in 2011.
Cooperation / Networks
SASH Bahamas is now also a member of various networking groups such as;
Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD), Creole Vulnerable Communities (CVC), Caribbean Forum for Lesbians, All-sexuals and Gays (CFLAG), Caribbean Sexualities, the Global Forum on MSM and HIV (MSMGF), International Council of AIDS Service Organizations (ICASO), Coalition Advocating for the Inclusion of Sexual Orientation (CAISO), and Caribbean Treatment Action Group (CTAG).