IDI HIV trainer urged KP CSOs and HIV stakeholders to visit Lady Mermaid’s DIC for learning and benchmarking.

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Key Population Civil Society Organizations, Health Workers and HIV trainers have been urged to visit Lady Mermaid Drop In Centre (DIC) for hands on learning and benchmarking about best practices in operating a DIC for Sex Workers and other Key Populations in Uganda.

Mrs.  Phoebe Nabongo, the Infectious Disease Institute (IDI) HIV/AIDs Trainer, said the way Lady Mermaid runs her DIC with values of love, equality, empathy, client centered and professionalism makes Lady Mermaid a point of reference for Key Population actors planning to learn more and HIV trainers delivering theoretical sessions about the DIC model for effectiveness of their programming and capacity improvement in line with access to friendly HIV services among Sex Workers

“I would encourage the Key Population and HIV/AIDs stakeholders to drop by Lady Mermaid DIC for learning, the hospitality is very good, the team is very knowledgeable and open to share their experience”, Phoebe said.

This was said during the DIC study visit organized by IDI at Lady Mermaid on 27th May 2021 as part of their 5days basic HIV counselling and care training for DIC staff and KP Peer educators from Key Population CSOs operating in Kampala and Wakiso districts. The training is in an effort to scale up and improve service delivery at the community safe spaces.

About Lady Mermaid DIC; Lady Mermaid, a Sex Worker-led organization operates a Drop-In-Centre in partnership with Makerere Joint AIDs Program (MJAP)’s ISS Clinic. The DIC is a community based safe space where Sex Workers walk in to access stigma free HIV/AIDs, Sexual Reproductive health and mental wellness services. Located in Mukalazi zone Bukoto, Lady Mermaid DIC serves over 500 Sex Workers across Kampala City every year as reflected in the 2019 Annual Report.

Key services provided at Lady Mermaid DIC includes; HIV Testing services, HIV risk reduction counselling, STI screening and treatment, HIV related awareness sessions, HIV prevention commodities i.e. male and female condoms, lubricants and HIV self-Testing Kits. Other services are; wellness sessions, anger management sessions, fitness classes.

The DIC also provide Sexual and Gender based violence (SGBV) support services with a 24/7hrs toll free line, 0800100014 being used by Sex Workers to seek rescue, report SGBV, order for HIV prevention commodities, and request PrEP and ART drug refills. Lady Mermaid DIC is also situated with the 1st Sex Worker-led Clinic, Merm Care. On top of health support services, the DIC serves as a training point about financial literacy, Human rights education, and other capacity empowerment programs targeting Sex Workers

The IDI trainer-trainee learning visit to Lady Mermaid’s DIC  therefore aimed at equipping participants with practical experience and learning opportunity about best strategies and idea for successful implementation of the DIC model, well as reflecting on the practicability of the theories  taught during the HIV trainings as Phoebe re-affirmed, “ the DIC visit has helped me to better put my theories to the real work experience, the benchmark visit is very hands on and have been very relevant to me as a trainer, and my trainees, there is a lot to learn here”.

“Initially I thought the DIC is a small room, but basing on what I have seen at Lady Mermaid, its something bigger, with a conducive space where sex workers can spend their time. I have never interacted with the them before, in the same way it has been when we found them relaxing at their DIC. The uniqueness about this DIC, the whole program seems owned by its beneficiaries, I have learnt about the way the DIC work with and empowers the Sex Workers they serve” adds Phoebe.

What Trainees Say

Ms. Nakabuye Angela, a Mental Health ambassador and also a Peer leader from OGERA Uganda, one of the 8 IDI trainees who attended the benchmarking visit at Lady Mermaid said there is a lot from Lady Mermaid’s Experience with KP led DIC. “The team is very welcoming, everyone is treated equally and with respect. I have learnt about the DIC Peer ongoing capacity support initiatives, how they monitoring the clients served at the DIC and the applicability of the principle of equality while serving KPs, its so amazing,” she said. Unice Nabwere, the Field Operations officer at Uganda fisheries and Fish conservation Association, who is also IDI HIV trainee, said Lady Mermaid is well equipped with necessities required to serve KPs, and the essence of all their services being free, makes it easier for low income Sex Workers to access HIV/AIDs services.

“I would really like to come back and learn more, the place is really nice”, adds Unice.

While addressing the IDI trainees at the DIC, Ms. Dorothy Nakayenga, Lady Mermaid Programs Manager urged CSOs operating Drop-In-Centres to put emphasis on making their DICs a stigma free and welcoming space, fostering a close relationship with the Sex Workers (key populations targeted by their respective DICs, their peer educators and the facility while observing the Ministry of Health guidelines and SOPs on COVID prevention.

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