Perceptions and attitudes of health care providers towards key populations play an important role in successful treatment and prevention. In many countries sex workers cannot access the health services they need because of stigma and discrimination by service providers. This is why the Bridging the Gaps sex workers project offered a three day training on attitude and communication for health care professionals providing services to sex workers and truckers at road wellness centers in Kenya and Uganda. Ralph Spijker, expert on education design and implementation working for Soa Aids Nederland, was involved in the development, implementation and evaluation of this training.

What is your job in the Netherlands?

Ralph Spijker during one of the sessions in Nairobi

Ralph Spijker during one of the sessions in Nairobi

Currently, I perform my duties as a Policy Officer for the Program Professionals of Soa Aids Nederland. My main task in the Netherlands  includes developing and implementing educational programs for health service providers. One of the programmes I am responsible for is counseling through “Motivational Interviewing” in sexual health. On that note, I have a background in nursing, sociology and online and distance education. I taught nursing for several years at a Dutch university.

How do you address attitudes and perceptions of healthcare professionals in the Netherlands?

In the Netherlands, providing education for professionals on perceptions and attitudes are an important topic within our ongoing programmes. I am convinced this is a universal matter which needs to be addressed worldwide within the current field. Therefore, as an expert on education design and implementation, I feel privileged to take part of this unique training programme in Nairobi.

What did you notice when training health care professionals in Nairobi?

From my view, this training has taught all participants to become more aware of playing a key role in successful prevention and treatment. Perceptions and attitudes on sexuality, sex workers, truckers or any marginalized groups within the professional context are of influence on the outcomes of counseling.

In the beginning I found it hard to communicate with sex workers… But I’ve improved my skills in time and enjoy working with them. They trust me and come to see me at the wellness center. Training participant

The content was relevant because it enhanced understanding of client needs and how to address them. Training participant

What is your overall conclusion regarding the training in Kenya?

I consider our  training in Nairobi as a great success. Half of the participants took part in a previous training course on attitude and communication, one year ago. I spoke to some of them and they all emphasize the positive impact this course nowadays has on their daily performances working in the clinics, engaging with their clientele during counseling. Joining the training in Nairobi inspired me to develop training programs and tools in order to empower the professional strengths of the sex work projects, the professionals in the field and their clients.