February 7, 2011
The HIV Education Centre of St. John’s Anglican Cathedral in Hong Kong has been working since 1995 to respond to the AIDS epidemic. The Centre works to limit the spread of AIDS in Hong Kong, to promote acceptance and to reduce stigma attached to HIV/AIDS. PWRDF has been working with the Centre since 2004. Our work with the Centre began as part of the Partnership for Life (PfL) HIV/AIDS initiative of PWRDF, and became part of our regular program in the Asia/Pacific regional program after the PfL initiative ended.
A major piece of the Centre’s work involves supporting migrant workers in Hong Kong through medical education and information. This education involves more than just HIV and AIDS information. The stigma attached to HIV and AIDS still keeps many people away from testing or even visiting a clinic which purports to be solely an HIV and AIDS clinic.
Elijah Fung, the director of the HIV Education Centre, says, “We organize regular reproductive health programs for women but not just focusing on HIV and AIDS because the people don’t understand why you would target them for AIDS. But if you widen your program to include breast cancer, menopause, relationships, safer sex, STIs, etc. we find that it’s more acceptable in the community and people are more willing to participate.”
The Centre’s work with migrant workers led them to be part of a qualitative study on access to sexual and reproductive health services and information for migrant domestic women called Health of our Heroes, which was released in late 2010. The study, which is available in full here, discovered that female migrant workers have difficulty accessing medical information and care for a variety of reasons, including the potential cost of appointments, getting time off for appointments, and fear of losing their jobs if they are sick.
The study concludes with a series of recommendations:
1. Inclusion of sexual and reproductive health information in the post-arrival orientation for migrant domestic workers.
2. Institutionalize orientation seminars for first-time employers so that they will have a higher awareness of their obligations in terms of assisting the migrant domestic workers having the appropriate sexual and reproductive health services.
3. Wide-range dissemination of the provisions of the labour laws and anti-discrimination ordinances such as the Race Discrimination Ordinance so that both the migrant domestic workers and the local population’s awareness about equal and just treatment when it comes to accessing health services, is enhanced.
4. Having one or two public clinics which are close to the gathering points of foreign domestic workers and extend the service hours to weekends.
5. Stricter government monitoring of the implementation of policies related to migrant domestic workers, particularly those in relation to maternity and health benefits.
Thanks to the work of the St. John’s HIV Education Centre, many more women will have access to information and medical care that will improve their quality of life and will help prevent the spread of HIV and other STIs.