AIDSLINE
The National AIDS Hotline of Trinidad and Tobago
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History of the National AIDS Hotline


AIDSLINE has been in existence since December 1988, incorporated in December 1996. We are a non-profit, service funded partially by a donor agency, donations from corporate citizens and volunteer fund-raising activities.

AIDSLINE is part of the National AIDS Programme of Trinidad and Tobago, with a Board of Directors, volunteer "listeners" and paid support staff.

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In 1987, a Special Programme of AIDS and Information Exchange Centre was established at the Caribbean Epidemiology Centre (CAREC), with funding from the World Health Organization (WHO). The Centre pro-vided governments in the region with guidance and technical support.

The Ministry of Health (MoH) of the Government of Trinidad and Tobago established its National AIDS Committee by an act of Parliament in 1987, and a National AIDS Coordinator was appointed. Several sub-committees were established, including one for Education and Training.

The Education and Training Subcommittee was given the mandate to establish, among other things, a hotline service staffed by volunteers recruited from the population. Thus, the Hotline’s genesis was via the Ministry of Health and was one of the earliest services provided through the National AIDS Programme*. Its structure was to be simple—a quasi-NGO with a management committee and a team of screened, trained volunteers that would operate under the general umbrella of the National AIDS Programme.

The first steps towards making this mandate a reality were taken when a representative of AIDSCOM** visited Trinidad and Tobago in 1988 to iden-tify areas in which his organization could provide technical support to the government through the National AIDS Programme. AIDSCOM offered the Ministry of Health funding and technical support for an AIDS hotline.

It was agreed that CAREC would be the hotline’s facilitating agency and a clinical social worker was appointed to be volunteer coordinator.

The next stage was attendance at a training session in Washington, DC, by a five-member delegation. The intense one-week AIDS/STDs Hotline Development Workshop in the autumn of 1988 exposed the participants to a number of strategic exercises focused on developing an administrative structure and guidelines that would reflect Caribbean social/cultural norms as applied to sex, sexuality and religion. The group visited an AIDS hotline service in Baltimore, Maryland, that was assessed as a potential model because its operational proportions were similar to those needed to serve the population of Trinidad and Tobago. Its selling points were its low budget, and its simple structure and operating processes/ procedures. As a result of the workshop, a model was developed for establishing hotlines in the Caribbean region.

While the workshop was under way in the United States of America, CAREC (in Trinidad) sponsored a series of advertisements in daily local newspapers for individuals interested in volunteering as listeners on the National AIDS Hotline. The Hotline Advisory and Management Committee was formalized, and a subcommittee from the National AIDS Programme was formed to lay the foundation for the first training programme. The first group of volunteers was screened and interviewed by CAREC, and 26 trainees were selected. They represented institutions, agencies and other community groups whose service policies were, to some extent, aligned with those of the hotline.



* From its outset, Aidsline has had the full support of the Ministry of Health and has continued to seek its support whenever appropriate. Having an ongoing professional working relationship with the MoH can be an important asset for any AIDS hotline.
** AIDSCOM is a sub-agency of the Washington, DC Academy for Educational Development.





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