A new paper published in the Journal of the International AIDS Society (JIAS) outlines some of the successes and challenges discovered while training healthcare workers in Uganda on the needs of sexual and gender minority (SGM) populations. Ensuring that healthcare workers are proficient in providing affirming and comprehensive care for SGM patients is critical for ending the HIV epidemic worldwide. SGM people, particularly men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender women, experience disproportionate HIV infection across the globe. The paper, titled Healthcare worker training to improve quality of care for sexual and gender minority people in sub-Saharan Africa: learning from efforts in Uganda, highlights the facilitators of and barriers to SGM health training efforts for healthcare workers in Uganda.
“Based on our experience working in Uganda with local partners, the purpose of this article was to synthesize facilitators of and barriers to SGM health training for Ugandan healthcare workers, in order to inform potential priorities, strategies and next steps for advancing culturally responsive SGM healthcare across Uganda and sub-Saharan Africa,” said Dr. Alex Keuroghlian, Director of Education and Training Programs at The Fenway Institute and one of the authors of the paper.
The areas of focus for these trainings included sexual and gender histories, sex-positive HIV counselling, sexually transmitted infections, HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis and gender-affirming hormone therapy. SGM communities in sub-Saharan Africa have often experienced discrimination, persecution, incarceration and physical violence, and they encounter unique barriers to engagement in sexual health services and HIV prevention and treatment.
The lessons learned from healthcare worker training efforts in Uganda can be used to inform future outreach initiatives and care best practices to better meet the needs of more SGM communities in the region. Evaluation of SGM health training programs to determine the impact on HIV viral load suppression and sexual health outcomes will be critical for identifying strategies that may support advancing HIV epidemic control for SGM communities in Uganda and across sub-Saharan Africa.
“This special issue of the Journal of the International AIDS Society highlights the reality that as programs to engage young African heterosexuals in HIV prevention have scaled up, key populations have not received the same attention,” explained Dr. Kenneth Mayer, Fenway Health Medical Research Director, Co-Director of The Fenway Institute, and another paper author. Dr. Mayer was also a co-editor of the special JIAS issue this paper appears in, Key Populations: the Future of the African HIV/AIDS Pandemic?
“As a result, their rates of new HIV infections are increasing. Part of the solution is health care worker training to provide culturally competent care to at risk people,” Dr. Mayer said. The full paper can be accessed here: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/jia2.25728