Three health sector workers from Samoa and Timor-Leste attended the joined Australian HIV/AIDS & Sexual Health Conference 2019, as part of the ASHM International Scholarships Program.
ASHM International – in partnership with Abbott –launched their annual Scholarship Program, which supported health care workers from the Asia and Pacific region to attend the joined 2019 Australian HIV/AIDS & Sexual Health Conference in Perth from 16 – 19 September. ASHM International was very pleased to invite A’aone Tunumafili Taveuveu from Samoa and Ines Lopes from Timor-Leste to the conference.
In addition, Dr Sheena J Dias Viegas – who is the National Program Manager for HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis and STIs at the Department of Communicable Disease Control (Ministry of Health, Timor-Leste) – was invited to the conference as part of a study tour.
The three representatives enriched the conference participants with their various views, experiences and realities on the respective sexual health settings in Samoa and Timor-Leste.
Jody Mitchell and Debra Rehbein from Abbott, scholarship recipients: A’aone Tunumafili and Ines Lopes, and Laura Serra and Michelle O’Connor from ASHM International
A’aone Tunumafili Taveuveu has been working for the Samoan Ministry of Health for more than 10 years. In her role as the principal HIV/AIDS officer, A’aone is being confronted with many cultural challenges in a setting where STIs including HIV remain a public health threat.
A’aone’s key interest areas focus on addressing key populations, stigma and discrimination, and social inclusion. This was complemented with the two ASHM International satellite sessions: Stigma and Discrimination; overcoming barriers to healthcare in our region and Critical Concerns for HIV Treatment & Care in Papua New Guinea - A Call to Action.
A’aone’s reported her most important lesson learned from the conference is “not one strategy fits all”. She expressed that the conference encouraged her to push for a change process in the political environment to promote sexual and reproductive health and rights as a fundamental human right.
“I was personally in awe of the multitude of knowledge and skills shared and wouldn’t change anything of it, as it is one of the most prestigious events that garnered all intellectuals to not only speak on the issues of the past, but the present and the future”. A’aone Tunumafili Taveuveu.
Ines Lopes is the Director of Estrela+, an independent Timorese not-for-profit membership association of people living with HIV. Through its advocacy and education activities, Estrela+ works to ensure that the rights of people living with HIV in Timor-Leste are recognised, respected and promoted.
Ines has already participated in the 2016 Australian HIV/AIDS & Sexual Health Conference. This year however, she was invited to join the ASHM International speakers at the satellite session “Stigma and Discrimination; overcoming barriers to healthcare in our region”. Ines shared experiences and facts about the stigma and discrimination that people living with HIV face in Timor-Leste. Also, she presented her own recommendations for health care workers in the region.
Furthermore, she participated as a speaker during the NAPWHA satellite symposium: Heads together - we can transform the region. Here, she tackled questions from the panel and the audience in which she explained her work with Estrela+ and how they partner with health workers and society to reduce stigma and discrimination in Timor-Leste.
Dr Sheena J Dias Viegas was invited to the conference as part of the study tour, which was a joined initiative between the Government of Timor-Leste and ASHM International.
Dr Sheena participated in the ASHM International stigma and discrimination session the NAPWHA symposium. In these two sessions, she was given the opportunity to portrait and share her insights and the government’s efforts to reduce stigma and discriminations in Timor-Leste.
“This is a good platform for Timorese nationals to get an international exposure to the best practices in Key Population Program in prevention in HIV/AIDS.
There are many good practices that are effective as well as cost efficient that could be adopted in the context of Timor-Leste” Dr Sheena J Dias Viegas
ASHM International thanks Abbott and the representatives – A’aone, Ines and Sheena - to help us to grow the ASHM International Scholarship Program and is looking forward to extending this opportunity to new participants for the 2020 Australasian HIV&AIDS Conference in Melbourne.