Double Grant Award Winners -from Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC)

red-lightThe strategic goal of the HIV Elimination Project is reducing the incidence of HIV infection in accordance with the UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets, which United and Strong has dedicated to facilitating among key populations.  Facilitating access to services by key populations is undoubtedly a critical component of the work.  Hence, United and Strong Inc became a double grant recipient towards scaling the HIV response among key populations.

The two grants from the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition, one of which falls under “Community Capacity Building and Campaigns to promote health and human rights” and funded under the CVC MACAIDS FUND  and other being the “Red Light Outreach Project” under OECS Global Fund HIV/TB Project  the will focus primarily on working with key populations within the LGBT and sex worker communities.

Some primary objectives of these project will be to provide HIV Rapid Test and phlebotomy training for members of the key populations.  Activities will also focus on enhancing the documentation of human rights violations of persons within key populations while also providing a level of security and personal safety training.  A key component of both projects will be the provision of sexual health services within a conducive environment.

Both projects are set to span over a nine month period ending in September of 2017. We anticipate a successful outcome where key populations will be empowered and equipped with the proper skill sets to provide peer education along with related sexual health and human rights services to colleagues.

The first component of the Red Light Project will be a Peer Education training for a cadre of 15 women in the area of Sexual Reproductive Health and HIV.  Mr. Bennet Charles – Communications & Advocacy Officer for United and Strong Inc shared the following comments;

“This is a most timely initiate on the heels on the 1 Billion Rising Campaign as we aim to bring focus and visibility on the exploitation of our women and girls, while enhancing their capacity to be more resilient”

United and Strong will continue to partner with other agencies to increase capacity and strengthen networks with health service provides to ensure the successful implementation of these projects.

United and Strong for “We Shall Not Tire”


The one matchepidemic of HIV in Saint Lucia and the region brought with it the epidemic of Stigma and discrimination fueled by the early myth that AIDS was a “gay disease” along with our uneducated and misguided information of LGBT persons. The presence of anti-LGBT laws within our criminal code made it even easier to turn a blind eye to the social injustice faced by the community.

Our perceived religious practices and beliefs based around persons of sexual orientations different from that of a heterosexual, created an even more anti-LGBT atmosphere. One which has resulted in both physical and psychological abuse of LGBT persons be it that their sexual orientation was perceived or real.

This is the environment which spawned the formation of United and Strong Inc and many other organizations across our region with the same goal. It was realized that governments of the region were not ready to fully address the issues affecting such population even when HIV statistics showed they should be at the negotiating table and given due representation, nationally, regionally and internationally.

Our region has seen a number of initiatives geared at giving a voice to the voiceless, structures such as CRN+, CVC, and PSI Caribbean all targeting the vulnerabilized populations of sex workers, LGBTI youth etc. These initiatives were developed because it was clear that critical groups were either left out of the negotiations when addressing how to curb the impact of HIV in the region. We can also view it simply as fear of a political backlash at the end of the five year term of a government.

Organizations such as United and Strong Inc with support from other international partners have ensured that representation when lacking by our governments, are given at the highest level of international structures. When politicians claim to represent the views of the region, we and our colleagues can paint the true picture at these international spaces.

Saint Lucia and the rest of the OECS region are set to implement the Global Fund for AIDS and Tuberculosis which includes emphasis on: combination prevention to key populations and community systems strengthening.   We as an organization look forward to the views of our government and the working relationship we hope they will establish with the LGBT community. We look forward to hearing our government’s national and international policies in relation to the LGBT community and related human rights issues.

 We have and will continue to express our concerns over such matters like the anti-LGBT/anti-human rights laws contained in our criminal code. It is critical we engage in dialogue with the governance structures of our government that give representation to Saint Lucia at the international level on matters of HIV and Human Rights related issues.

We shall as an organization continue to monitor the comments and views of various government ministers and the international policies of our government in relation to LGBT issues. We shall as an institution of this country continue to strive, for we shall not tire and we shall not remain quiet.

“Condomize De Mas” – U&S Joins Red Rebellion at Red Bikini Affair

Presentation1United and Strong Inc joins Red Rebellion Carnival Band & Mercury on June 19th , 2016 at Pigeon Island Causeway at what is set to be the most untamed beach rave yet.

The Red Unlimited Carnival Band, referred to as Red Carnival is best described as a party band with two distinguishing features – attracting Revelers with Energy to dazzle spectators and demonstrating innovation to keep the band on the cutting edge of the revelers’ experience.

United and Strong Inc is a registered non government organization, focused on LGBT and HIV/STI Health Education for marginalized communities in Saint Lucia and the OECS islands. A major component of the organization’s work is to eliminate stigma and discrimination, reduce inequality, and protect human rights and lives.

During the Red Bikini Affair and other Carnival events, U&S team members’ urges revelers and patrons to “Condomize De Mas”. Peer Educators will disseminate safe sex information, male and female condoms and lubricants to the public. The organization recognizes that persons engage in risky behaviors during the Carnival Season and so felt it necessary to heighten the awareness of safe sex practices.

This Carnival Season U&S urges the public to get tested so you can know your status.  Remember More Condoms, More Love!!!!!  For more information about the organization, visit our facebook page: United and Strong Inc or search for us on Instagram: @unitedandstrong.slu

Orlando Massacre – an act against humanity

11174762_10152913660621312_86357133027865020_nViolence against – denigration of – a person by virtue of their perceived or actual sexual orientation and gender identity/expression is sadly perpetrated by  discriminatory laws, religious and cultural beliefs. Sadly, there are always those willing to by any means necessary to put such beliefs into practice.

“We at United and Strong Inc are deeply saddened by the massacre at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, which took the lives of at least 50 people and injured 53 others.  This act of terror and hate was not a crime against Americans or LGBT persons, but against humanity”.

So how can we tolerate, for even one more minute; those norms, practices, laws or policies that render our most intimate selves and identities, a basis for ostracizing, a reason for exclusion, an excuse for violence.

We must begin to realize that the impact of such acts of terror and violence are felt beyond the country of origin.   We as Caribbean people often see the United States, Canada and other metropolitan countries as our place of refuge.  Simply because being able to freely express our identity or reach our full potential at home is suffocating.  Hence a number of LGBT persons make this journey towards a better life across the ocean while at the same time unknowingly increase their risk to violence and other discriminatory acts.

What is scarier with this most recent act of terror is the proximity of the State of Florida to the Caribbean region and its preparation to host some of the 2016 HERO Caribbean Premier League (CPL) matches in Central Broward Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

We call on our local and regional governments to express their feelings about such heinous crimes against humanity as they can’t afford to remain silent on such an issue.  These are matters of human rights; the rights of our people; and when we fail them in providing the support or listening ear, it is they who are paying for it with their future and their lives.

U&S congratulates Hon. Allen Chastanet and the United Workers Party

us-logo-lowqualityUnited and Strong Inc would like to extend congratulations to the Hon. Allen Chastanet and the United Workers Party on the impressive victory at the June 6th 2016 Polls.  We extend further congratulations to Hon. Allen Chastanet on his appointment as the 11th Prime Minister of Saint Lucia and to the members of his Cabinet.

Good governance and effective-ethical leadership are the essential requirements for any Country or government to be considered successful in the 21st century. United and Strong understands these are difficult times, with an economic crisis at home and abroad coupled with unemployment and the seeming upsurge in suicides and other related crimes.

We are confident that the trust placed in the Government by the citizens of Saint Lucia will inspire members elect to continue important efforts in promoting the unity of our country, leading it on the path of prosperity, further well-being and security for our people.

We firmly believe that our country will continue to develop dynamic, mutually beneficial relations, and that joint initiatives in the fields of security, economy and health will strengthen our island.

Congratulations are also in order to every elected Member of Parliament on the Opposition Saint Lucia Labour Party.  We are delighted that you will continue to work for the good of the people of your constituency and all Saint Lucians.

Mr. Bennet Charles – Advocacy and Communications Officer for United & Strong added his voice to the message “We look forward to making a courtesy call on the new Prime Minister as we seek to further enhance our relationship with him and his Cabinet colleagues towards a more LGBT friendly Saint Lucia”

United and Strong Inc looks forward to a most productive working relationship with this new Government as we continue to advocate on behalf of LGBT Saint Lucians.  We sincerely congratulate the Hon. Allen Chastanet and wish him every success and wisdom in discharging the important and responsible duties of his new post.


United & Strong Inc. says “stick to the issues”


Presentation1Call it the “Silly season,” and it has began to descend upon us in the lead-up to the next general election on June 6th 2016.

While Easter might have instilled hope for a better Saint Lucia, the recent announcement of the date for general election, has inevitably resurrected negative campaigning in ways that reminds us that we are in the carnival season.

Hyper-partisanship reaches its apex at the national level and its potential for destructiveness is worrying to United and Strong Inc. The organization understands too well the impact that stigmatizing and discriminatory words have on persons of the LGBT community. Sadly, during an election season or what we call the “silly season” words are used back and forth between various political parties, more with the intent of detracting the electorate from the true issues.

Our political candidates have historically embraced a culture of mud-slinging and “mepwe”, where the electorate themselves get caught in the “bacchanal”. United and Strong believes that such behavior serves more to detract citizens from national issues that they are faced with on a daily basis.

During this election campaign we’ve only had one other mention of anything related to the LGBT issues, when LGBT persons were referred to as being “demon possessed”. However all the issues that affect LGBT persons, have never been discussed on a political platform by any of the political parties and that is indeed very concerning to the organization.

It is rather easy for negativity to go viral via social media, hence we call on the political candidates to be more concerned about how language is used during this 2016 election campaign. We call on the various political candidates who are the future government of this country to openly speak on the issues being faced by our LGBT citizens. If policymakers are truly supportive of the LGBT community, we call on them to engage their colleagues to explore the repelling of discriminatory laws such as Criminal Code Section 132 Gross Indecency Act and Section 133 Buggery Law.

If we’re truly concerned as a nation about the social stigma and discrimination faced by our LGBT persons, then help in creating an atmosphere that embraces persons no matter their sexual orientation or perceived orientation. We at United and Strong are well positioned to understand the many faces of stigma and discrimination experienced by persons at their various places of employment, within their congregation, by unemployed young LGBT persons, at schools and within their communities. We are too familiar with the myriad of situations where our community members are verbally and physically abused.

No political candidate has stood up openly on a political platform and supported the work that United and Strong has been doing over the past fifteen (15) years. We call on our political hopefuls, to address the relevant national issues affecting our nation such as those of HIV and AIDS and related increasing rates of infection among our males.

We do hope as the campaign continues that our various political candidates speak out on matters of substance that affect LGBT persons and every other Saint Lucian. We ask them to acknowledge United and Strong as an organization that has enhance the quality of life for our LGBT community both nationally and regionally.

Celebrating IDAHOT 2016 with “Acceptance” – Documentary of an LGBT person

IDAHOT-full-logoInternational Day against Homophobia and Transphobia is observed on May 17 internationally.   It aims to coordinate events that raise awareness of LGBT rights violations and work worldwide.  The 2016 celebration is being held under the theme “Mental Health and Well Being

The main purpose of the May 17 mobilization is to raise awareness of violence, discrimination, and repression of LGBT communities worldwide.  This in turn provides an opportunity to take action and engage in dialogue with the media, policymakers, public opinion, and wider civil society.

United and Strong Inc the only LGBT organization in Saint Lucia will join the rest of the world and other activists in the region to highlight the various psychological and related issues faced by LGBT persons.  The recently held Caribbean Men’s Dialogue in Dominica from April 18-21st brought forth the myriad of issues faced by Caribbean men along with possible strategies to curb the social stigma and discrimination.

IDAHOT celebrations in Saint Lucia will be launched with the posting of a documentary developed under the What’s Your Position Project supported by UNDP – Social Innovation for Change Project.   The  film  dubbed “Acceptance”will highlight the various forms of social stigma and discrimination experienced by an LGBT individual and will be posted on various social media platforms of United and Strong Inc.

The documentary will also explore the many psychological challenges faced by the individual and the paths explored to acceptance and working through the various challenges at work and in her personal life.

Celebrations will continue into the month of June and will feature a number of panel discussions and debate involving stakeholders along with members of the LGBT community.  A major part of IDAHOT celebration is an opportunity for the community to celebrate their diversity with a Pride Stand.  The activity will feature LGBT allies and United & Strong members coming together to silently highlight the forms of social stigma and discrimination.

Saint Lucia as a small Caribbean nation has an important role to play in fighting for the basic human rights of everyone, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. The struggle to end discrimination against LGBT persons is a global challenge, and one that is central to the organisation’s commitment to promoting human rights.

Two LGBT activists murdered in Bangladesh — 76 CRIMES

In Bangladesh, two LGBT rights activists, including the editor of Roopbaan, the country’s first LGBT magazine, were hacked to death this morning in a flat in the country’s capital, Dhaka. The deceased are Roopbaan editor Xulhaz Mannan, 35, and his friend, Tonoy Mojumdar, also an LGBT rights activist. Bangladeshi LGBT rights activists expressed shock and […]

via Two LGBT activists murdered in Bangladesh — 76 CRIMES

Inaugural Caribbean Men’s Dialogue 2016


Caribbean Men's DialogueThe high rates of HIV infection along with the large percentage of men enrolled in HIV treatment and care in Saint Lucia and other OECS islands, have certainly been a concern for United and Strong Inc (Saint Lucia) and DomCHAP out of Dominica.

These two partners believe that the absence of an enabling and supportive environment often drives key populations such as members of the GBT community underground.   This translate into a  disconnect from social support and other important resources that could help improve their general health opportunities and quality of life. This ultimately formed the basis for this inaugural Caribbean Men’s Dialogue 2016, taking place in Roseau Dominica from April 18-21st 2016.

With varying levels of resources available for HIV and AIDS programming and health system capacity across the different countries in the Caribbean, the region faces an array of challenges to not only sustain but to scale up their national HIV and AIDS responses. The challenge implied by a 90-90-90 scale up scenario, as well as decreasing funding levels and/or shifts in funding priorities among international donors, requires countries, and the region as a whole to carefully examine programmatic priorities to determine the most efficient way to achieve impact.

In light of such the Caribbean Men’s Dialogue will endeavor to:

  • Create a forum for in depth dialogue on sexual diversity, health and human rights issues.
  • Identify strategies to help surmount the main challenges of key population advocacy in the OECS.
  • Strengthen Regional key population groups and individuals partnerships and collaboration towards stronger regional key population networks, thereby contributing a more valuable voice to the global effort.
  • Examine strategies for engaging other sectors and movement with a view to informing a more positive narrative. Engaging the media is one area that may prove useful and it may be interesting to hear the view of the participants in this regards.
  • Scale up HIV prevention and treatment strategies for key population within the OECS, and convene dialogue on the status of key population behavioral health and promotion in the OECS territories.

Dr. Stephen King from Saint Lucia is set to be the keynote speaker on the human rights issues of GBT persons within an HIV context, at this inaugural meeting of men from the French and English speaking Caribbean region.  This will be followed by a number of panel discussions,  presentations and working sessions by various regional and international partners over the next four days.  Helping to meet the expected outcomes, organisations such as Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC)Men Who Have Sex With Men Global Forum (MSMGF),  UNAIDS CaribbeanOutRight Action International OPEN SOCIETY FOUNDATIONS,  Premiere association franciase de lutte contre VIH/sida et les hepatitesAfrican Men For Sexual Health and Rights AMSHeR and MiRiDOM will be engaging participants at the various forums.

In addition to the development of a strategic plan to enhance interventions among GBT men within the OECS on the heels of the OECS GFATM Project , participants hope to get consensus on a Caribbean Men’s declaration position paper to be presented by its representatives at the  UNAIDS 2016 High-Level Meeting on Ending AIDS taking place in New York from June 8-10 2016.

United and Strong Inc and DomCHAP looks forward to this dialogue helping in the transformation of our region within the context of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


Expanding Community Reach – through education

Presentation1United and Strong Inc fully embraces the belief that people are more likely to hear and personalize messages, and thus change their attitudes and behaviors, if they believe the messenger is similar to them and faces the same concerns and pressures.  Hence the utilization of peer education continues to be a major service offered not only to members but other populations in Saint Lucia.

Realizing the success of the first cohort of peer educators trained with the collaboration of Caribbean Vulnerable Communities and MAC AIDS FUND, these partners have decided to foster the training of another cadre of educators.  The increased in the number of trained personnel provides the opportunity for United and Strong Inc to make true its theme for 2016 “Expanding community response, through dignity, love, respect, protection and equality for all”

This training being conducted by master JHPIEGO trainer Patricia Joseph, will see an additional 10 young educators.  The second phase will also include a new component to improve the quality of service delivered by the educators and will factor in Productivity Enhancement Training which will be conducted by the Advocacy Officer of United and Strong Inc, Bennet Charles.

The new cohort of educators are indeed elated to have been selected to not only receive this level of training but to be part of the national response toward influencing behavior change among Saint Lucians while fostering personal growth and development.  According to one educator “this is a major opportunity to work with other partners in Saint Lucia and expand the reach of our services”

The impact of HIV & AIDS along with other STIs among marginalized youth and other vulnerabilized population especially males will continue to increase if interventions are not target specific.  This new cadre of educators further positions United and Strong Inc as an organization critical in ensuring that Saint Lucia can achieve the 90-90-90 targets set by the international community.

United and Strong hopes to partner with other national stakeholders such as the Bureau of Health Education within the Ministry of Health, UNDP Barbados and the OECS, Saint Lucia Association of Social Workers, Saint Lucia Planned Parenthood Association along with others, as we continue to work towards enhancing the quality of life of LGBT persons in Saint Lucia.