Palau began HIV testing and surveillance in 1989 and since then the numbers has remained relatively low. In total, there are seven (7) reported cases; of which all are Pacific Islanders and three (3) are women. The ministry of health has aggressively targeted women, with greater testing efforts among this sub-population. Efforts are underway to increase health screening and HIV testing among males.
In 2006, the health ministry conducted an HIV testing and awareness campaign for women through a national Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day initiative. The project involved networking with influential Palauan women serving as peer educators and volunteer support staff. The project was successful in mobilizing women to encourage other female family members, friends and co-workers to test for HIV and screen for STI. In total, 97 women tested for HIV and screened for STI. Of the 97 tested, 50% were first time testers.
WOMEN AND GIRLS HIV/STI TESTING CAMPAIGN 2006
Campaign Promotion Development:
- Domestic violence and gender inequalities put women and girls at-risk for HIV/AIDS. The Palau health department participated in a week-long campaign recognizing March 10 as Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, providing prevention education and free HIV testing and health screening.
- Women and girls of all ages.
Campaign Promotion Goals and Objectives:
- To organize a group of influential women to encourage 100 females (relatives, friends and co-workers) to know more about STI/HIV/AIDS.
- Test 100 women for STI/HIV.
- 97 women tested for STI/HIV.
- 48 women (50% of those tested) are now aware of their STI/HIV status for the first time.
- Partnership with Family Planning Partner Program, Women’s Health, Primary Care Services and other community and private partners.
- Recruitment of core group of influential female community members/leaders.
- Female Peer Leaders should have strong communication skills and possess basic knowledge about HIV/AIDS.
- Provide incentives (gas coupons and food) for project participation.
- Advertise campaign in local newspaper and produce campaign flyers.
Culturally Competent Characteristics:
- Mobilize a core group of influential women to lead village awareness campaign, recognizing the powerful role female organizers possess in Palauan society.
- Utilize strong extended family networks in dispelling HIV/AIDS myths and fears.
Budget and Staff:
- CDC Prevention Grant: $500 (incentives)
- CDC/STD Grant: $800 (publication and advertisements)
- Combined HIV and STI Grant: $2000 (staff salary, testing, planning, evaluation and information dissemination)
- Language barriers among foreigners prevented them from getting tested.
- Some women reluctant to take HIV/STI test because they believed it would cost them money (despite being informed that test was free).
- Some women afraid to take HIV/STI test, fearing positive result.
- Despite best efforts to encourage STI/HIV testing among female foreign workers (specifically employed at Massage parlors and karaoke bars), these women were least likely to get tested.
- Set policies and protocols for incentive distribution to avoid conflict. Hold those in charge of disbursing incentives accountable.