August 10, 2012
Planned Parenthood Association gets regional assistance

In its thrust to educate and increase awareness on sexual and reproductive health, the St Vincent Planned Parenthood Association (SVPPA) is receiving regional assistance in targeting local youths and “vulnerable groups”.{{more}}

Executive director Verlene Saunders said that the SVPPA is working in conjunction with Public Services International (PSI), which is a leading global health organisation.

“The partnership with PSI allows us to give free services to young women, 25 and under, and men,” said Saunders.

A lot of young people are going around with stuff [sexually transmitted diseases and infections] that they don’t even know they have,” she explained. “A lot of young people don’t understand the importance of … not having all this unprotected sex.”

Saunders added: “This is our way of trying to help young people, through this project.”

Joel Joseph, a research consultant with PSI, said that during his 10-day visit to SVG, he will be working with the SVPPA on behalf of Carisma Options – a regional body that engages in social marketing, with regard to sexual and reproductive health.

Joseph explained that he will be working specifically with peer educators to increase awareness among and disseminate information to target groups.

“What Carisma is interested in is how effective the strategies are. If it is really getting at the population we are interested in,” he said.

Joseph admitted that there have been challenges, which he hopes can eventually be overcome. Namely, getting their message to the “less visible” young females in target communities; and getting youths (and others) to come forward to be checked and receive relevant information, despite the “perceived” lack of confidentiality.

“It’s been interesting, so far, what has been emerging,” he said. “Over the next few days, we will be … interacting with young people and seeing what their experiences have been like – really to evaluate the strategies.”

A similar project was conducted in Dominica by Carisma Options, and the findings from both will be compiled into reports and published online.

Additionally, the SVPPA has been hosting Master’s student Cecily Marroquin, who is doing research for her thesis in medical Anthropology.

The 23-year-old George Washington University student has been attached to the SVPPA for just under six weeks. Thanks to a grant from her university, Marroquin was able to apply to the PSI’s Trinidad-based office, and was referred to the project that the SVPPA is currently conducting.

“The Caribbean was of particular interest to me,” she said. “I wanted to see how they used social marketing as a prevention tool for HIV, and for other sexual and reproductive health messages.”

Marroquin’s research involves her gathering data, through shadowing SVPPA employees, and going out into the filed to take part in awareness activities that the organisation hosts.

“It’s been a great experience…good to see the drive and determination of the people who do this kind of work,” she said.

Marroquin said that this has been her first stint doing field research, and that she hopes to use this experience to aid her in continuing studies in anthropology.

She said: “It’s been a serious learning experience … You’re not

an anthropologist unless you’re out in the field!”

After completing her Master’s degree, Marroquin said that she hopes to pursue a doctorate and also pursue studies in public health.(JV)