Juana Portugal e Luciana Kamel (INI/Fiocruz)
The team from the STD and AIDS Clinical Research Laboratory (LapClin-Aids) of the Evandro Chagas National Institute of Infectious Diseases (INI/Fiocruz) received on June 5 the 2018 Community Engagement Award in recognition of the international excellence of its activities for promoting health and citizenship among groups vulnerable to HIV infection. “Community participation in research is fundamental because it is for society that we do research. Getting the population involved in all phases of the studies helps make sure that the results are more appropriate for the community that will benefit from them”, emphasizes Beatriz Grinsztejn, head of LapClin-Aids of INI/Fiocruz. The award ceremony took place during the closing of the Annual Meeting of the HIV Prevention Trials Network - HPTN in Washington DC, in the United States.
“This is the acknowledgment of a job carried out with plenty of effort and love. For me, as a trans woman, and for the entire team, this was very significant. The award goes to all of those who take part of the events, and in particular I would like to share this moment with the transvestite and transgender community”, stated Laylla Monteiro, of the Community Education team.
A member of the HPTN since 1999, LapClin-Aids runs studies and pioneer inclusion activities that target vulnerable populations, especially trans people and the young gay population of peripheral communities.
A diverse and multidisciplinary team
“Our team of pair educators, consisting of trans women, transvestites and young gay members of peripheral communities, work together with the other professionals of the Laboratory, plan activities with a special focus on binding with, welcoming and maintaining the adhesion of people who participate in the projects, and create friendly, non-discriminatory environments”, says Luciana Kamel, a psychologist who is a member of the team. “In the community follow-up of clinical trials, we have an Auxiliary Community Committee (CCA, in the Portuguese acronym) with a diversified representation among the members. In addition to the meetings with the CCA, we also organize meetings with the community in order to present new studies, and whenever a project is concluded, we do presentations to display our results”, she said.
“Our work with the volunteers in the studies goes beyond orientation; we offer attention. We are the human part of a very technical job”, explained Josias Freitas. “The Laboratory has a toll-free line people can use to receive information and to schedule their first visit. When they arrive, they are directed to the community education team, where they are welcomed and sent to an interview with the psychology team”.
Strengthening ties with the community
The events organized by LapClin-Aids are open spaces that strengthen INI/Fiocruz’s commitment with the community, as the interaction helps identify the needs that guide the study proposals suitable for those demands. The work plan of the entire team includes a yearly calendar with several workshops: integral health, customization of clothes, arts, make-up, drama and dance classes, movie sessions and rounds of conversation.
The activities in LGBTI socialization places include weekly visits to LGBTI video tourism stores, movie theaters, saunas, discos and meeting points to carry out prevention actions, including distribution of condoms and lubricants. In a partnership with two local NGOs (GPV-RJ and Arco-Íris), and the Aids Program of the Secretary of Health of the State of Rio de Janeiro, other services are provided, such as HIV testing and counseling, with the goal of reaching a population that is particularly vulnerable. In addition, there are also activities that focus on study divulgation, awareness-raising, and recruiting in social media.
Another partner is the Court of Justice of the State of Rio de Janeiro: through its Itinerant Justice Program, it ensures that trans people or people in vulnerable situations in the community know their rights and can have access to the justice system, free of cost. According to the educators, the purpose of all actions is to help offer a more welcoming environment for more diverse populations.
HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN)
The HIV Prevention Trials Network (HTPN) is a global collaborative organization that runs clinical trials regarding the safety and effectiveness of HIV prevention strategies, financed by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) of the United States.