Shane Paul, Client Advocate Associate for APC Guyana
Shane Paul interacting with a client.
Shane’s journey in the world of HIV work began after attending an HIV education session in 2008. “I became a peer educator in 2008 after going to an HIV education session. The harsh reality of how my sexual choices were placing my life in jeopardy hit me. I realized my friends were engaging in the same risky behaviors and I wanted to help them change that.” Through hard work, Shane subsequently moved on to become an HIV Counselor/Tester with a mission to help his fellow men who have sex with men (MSM) not only become knowledgeable about HIV and receive testing, but also to encourage them to adapt better sexual practices.
Today, Shane juggles reading for his degree in Social Work at the University of Guyana and the numerous responsibilities of a Client Advocate Associate (CAA) with the Advancing Partners & Communities project in Guyana.
Shane states that his role as a CAA allows him to use his interpersonal skills to continue to interact with a variety of clients. Most importantly, he uses his outgoing nature to reach out to fellow MSM in order to spread knowledge, answer HIV-related questions, encourage HIV testing, and to lead them to necessary services. It’s a matter of professional pride when he successfully persuades a reluctant client to get tested or sees behavior changes in a client.
He noted that the most difficult aspect of his work is when clients are not forthcoming with details for him to accurately chart a course of comprehensive health services for them. “I tell them, I am not going to judge you, I am not going to look down on you. You don’t need to tell me your most intimate life details or anything you’re not comfortable sharing, but you need to be honest with me so I can fully help.” His persuasiveness is not always successful, yet he remains determined to help clients.
“This work has been a lesson in humility for me. It has taught me to be more compassionate and to see the humanity in clients rather than judge their risky choices. I realize that many persons within the MSM community and even non-MSM persons look to me as a role model, so I always seek to live a healthy lifestyle. I am real, I don’t try to pretend that a sexually healthy lifestyle is easy, but I tell my clients, if I can change so can you.”