As part of AWID’s Getting to Zero project today we are profiling the work of Pati Paichadze a gynecologist who works with the Association HERA XXI in Georgia. Through HERA XXI Pati provides reproductive health services for HIV positive patients and confidential online consultations for youth. HERA XXI offers their services free of charge to HIV positive youth. HERA XXI also works closely with youth on developing an analysis and understanding of HIV and AIDS issues from a gender perspective and tries to address specific stigma and discrimination that young women face due to their gender.
Pati’s Story and HERA XXI
My name is Pati Paichadze and I have been an infertility gynecologist since 1994 working at a maternity house. In 1998, I joined the Association HERA XXI as a consultant. Services for reproductive health are crucial for women during their fertile years and women with HIV and AIDS need special care in a nondiscriminatory environment. One of the goals of our organization is to provide specific assistance for the reproductive health of HIV positive people specifically young women in Georgia. We have several partner organizations in Georgia which help us reach our goals. One of the important partnerships helped us develop a good referral system with HIV and immunology centers around Georgia to help refer HIV positive people to HERA for consultation related to reproductive health.
During my first few years with HERA, I worked with the specialized clinic for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) where we offered free contraception specifically inserting intrauterine device (IUD) for IDPs who had Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs). Besides my professional interests and career, I had personal reasons for working at the policlinic at HERA XXI. I am a refugee from Abkhazia and I could relate and understand to the challenges and issues that internally displaced populations face. I always knew how difficult it is for IDPs and other similarly vulnerable groups to pay for services and how much they relied on support from clinics and non-profits that offer free services for health care. I felt certain that HERA XXI was providing the kind of services and support that IDP populations were looking for and our motivation was to break the boundaries for displaced populations to accessing health care related to sexual and reproductive health. In 2003 HERA XXI expanded to focusing on youth as an especially vulnerable population with regards to accessing sexual and reproductive health care and hence we opened a Youth Friendly Centre where I worked to provide anonymous and confidential online consultation for youth.
Aside from its focus on vulnerable populations including IDP and youth, HERA XXI’s work is centered around 5 main objectives namely: developing advocacy on sexual and reproductive health and rights issues, providing free access to sexual and reproductive health, developing specific programming on abortion, supporting adolescents through youth specific programming, and finally providing information on HIV and AIDS and other STIs. Part of the aims of our organization is to provide prevention information on HIV and other STIs for young people in Georgia in order to reduce social, religious, cultural, economic, legal and political barriers that make people vulnerable to HIV and AIDS. We also work to protect and promote the sexual rights of HIV+ people in Georgia. While we work with populations of all ages we have a specific mandate to focus on working with youth. I’m involved in different activities, workshops and trainings regarding the rights and well-being of young people living with HIV and AIDS. The most recent one was held in Washington, the 19th international conference on HIV issues, organized by International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) in 2012.
The reality in Georgia is that young women living with HIV are facing many problems related to their rights, the most painful being stigma and discrimination. Evidence shows, that rights of HIV+ people are not protected. The anonymity and confidentiality is not protected or respected and discrimination is widespread. There are cases when doctors refuse to provide services for HIV+ people. Association HERA XXI is providing free, anonymous and confidential sexual and reproductive services for HIV+ people. HIV+ people, who are planning to have a child or just need consultation with fertility specialist, get information, free contraception and ultrasound service in a confidential, calm and friendly environment. The majority of HIV+ people in Georgia live below the poverty line and cannot afford to pay for life-saving services, thus the services and information HERA provides are essential for the promotion of health and rights of people living with HIV/AIDS
Young people living with HIV are not just the beneficiary of HERA’s services; they are also actively involved in our activities through the group “Positive People, Positive Action” (PAPA) and our goal in 2013 is to strengthen the capacity of PAPA to involve HIV+ people in development and implementation of the study “stigma and discrimination among HIV+ people”. We also work closely with youth on developing an analysis and understanding of HIV/AIDS issues from a gender perspective and try to address specific stigma and discrimination that young women face due to their gender. We stress young people to understand the importance of using condoms and provide free access to condoms in our clinics. We highlight the principles of women’s equality especially when it related to family planning and contraception, and promote the use of female condoms when men are against using condoms, and strive to advocate for equal sharing of responsibility amongst women and men when it comes to family planning.
Our Youth Friendly Clinic is free of charge for HIV and AIDS infected people and provides free services for people planning to have a baby. We have produced a publication named “I am infected with HIV/AIDS, hug me!” We also conduct activities and competitions on a regular basis where we ask youth to draw paintings associated with HIV and AIDS. We ask them to capture short amateur video clips regarding stigma and discrimination.
You can “like” and visit HERA XXI’s facebook page by clicking here