“Removing the FLIES from the Ointment of Education”

… education is a most powerful tool for positive social development; however, we are or rather have labelled ourselves as a diverse people, and so within our diversity, we will have diverse views. The result of accepting diversity as presently positioned, facilitates “diversion”, a façade, a superficial concept of education which encourages tolerance to everything and anything, there is no sense of morality, no absolute; no sense of objectivity, right and wrong is subjective to personal perspective …

Thanks to the persons who attended our session entitled “Removing the FLIES from the Ointment of Education”

Join us at our upcoming empowerment sessions in this unique campaign … Deliver Us from Evil … as we seek to break the “spinal cord” of functional-illiteracy …  

Ageing with HIV

Ageing with HIV – It is my hope that this brief would open the Pandora’s Box in all stakeholders…

Even with the availability of effective treatment, people living with HIV cannot avoid the inevitable effects of ageing that everyone experiences. On reflecting, one can see that quality of life decreases with age. This process can be much more complicated for the person living with HIV.

Persons ageing with HIV may encounter experiences that are associated with their age, compounded by the stigma—external and internal—associated with HIV and AIDS. Said stigma invariably issues from persistent, entrenched attitudes that are inextricably linked to the public’s misconception. Imagine, after 38 years there are many, too many people who hold inaccurate beliefs about the causal transmission of HIV. By virtue of their retaining these perceptions, such individuals facilitate a multiplicity of barriers to the HIV-positive person receiving psychosocial support from friends and family. These barriers are only natural corollaries of the social stigma associated with ‘AIDS’ and the sexual and drug-using behaviours through which many people became HIV-infected.

However, the object of this short article is not to address public misconception, or how someone may become infected, but to flag some questions I hope will elicit appropriate responses. My questions or concerns are relevant to: the interactions between HIV medication and medication to treat other conditions in the ageing process; the impact of the combination of HIV and ageing on the immune system; whether such impact leaves HIV-positive persons susceptible to chronic immune activation; what constitute the long-term effects of inflammation in people living with HIV and whether inflammation directly affects major organs like the heart, liver and kidneys? 

These questions and concerns are pertinent because of the wisdom gained by research and observation of the natural process of growing old, which can complicate the issue of enjoying healthy life. The ageing process affects the immune system by lowering the production of T cells needed to defend the body against dangerously infectious attacks, resulting in possible cardiovascular complications, liver and kidney infections, the loss of muscle mass and the redistribution of fat, in several persons. Having considered that, now ruminate on the HIV infected individual whose immune system is already fighting this virus, with the additional challenge of coping with medication that can have further impact on the liver, kidney, muscle, heart and the redistribution of fat.

In the course of my research, the data I have encountered suggested that certain combinations of ARVs can cause abnormal bone metabolism, obesity and some mental health issues, such as ‘depression’. How effectively can the issue of depression be addressed by physicians operating under programmes that are focused primarily on the physical effects caused by HIV and ARV use?

Older people living with HIV can experience a number of comorbidities that should be addressed through prevention, screening, and early detection. The body’s defence mechanism, now attacked by HIV, is constantly at war with a host of other harmful organisms—viruses and bacteria that have invaded. The situation now is one where the virus reproduces itself, and the immune system, receiving stimulation to be on high alert, fights against the invader, —a syndrome called inflammation. While inflammation is not inherently bad, if unchecked it can cause havoc on the body, facilitating heart attack and stroke-causing plaque in the arteries, encouraging the growth of some types of cancers and burning out the immune system.   

It is my hope that this brief would open the Pandora’s Box in all stakeholders. As I close, to the infected:

Do not allow your HIV-positive status to define you. In times preceding the advent of effective treatment, people infected struggled with uncertainty, but asserted control over their lives, not allowing their infected status to govern their lives. They strove instead, despite their HIV, to accomplish professional goals in what was perceived to be their few remaining years. Do likewise.

Anderson Figaro

Founder, Educator and Counsellor of the foremost and first NGO in Central Trinidad to seriously address the issues of HIV and Substance Abuse.



Teocah Ainka Arieal Dove – Recipient of The Queen’s Young Leader Award – 2015

“My passion for social issues commenced when I became a volunteer member of The Voice of One Overcomers Club (Civil Society NGO:- one of its focus area:- HIV/AIDS) in 2004. This organization laid the foundation that initiated my calling, and a few years later, my career. It sparked my desire to do nothing less but serve humanity! Anderson Figaro was my first mentor, through volunteering under his leadership, I learnt everything from peer education, resource mobilization, activism, community engagement, transformational-servant leadership, engaging with multiple stakeholders, EVERYTHING! He carved the first roadway in my path to fulfilling my full potential.  He is a changemaker from my 1st quarter!”

We congratulate Teocah Ainka Arieal Dove on her accomplishment of being among 60 young leaders from across the British Commonwealth to be awarded with “The Queen’s Young Leader Award endorsed by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth”.  The award recognises exceptional youth, (aged 18-29), who have shown substantial commitment and verve as a leader in community development.

Ms. Dove is one of the first female recipients of this honour.


From left to right (Antoinette Glasgow - Administrative Secretary, Anderson Figaro - Founder/Director, Teocah Arieal Ainka Dove - Former VON-OC Youth Ambassador)
From left to right (Antoinette Glasgow – Administrative Secretary, Anderson Figaro – Founder/Director, Teocah Ainka Arieal Dove – Former VON-OC Youth Ambassador)

File Photo:- (June 18, 2009 – prior to our meeting with then First Lady of The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr. Jean Ramjohn-Richards)

Book Review 2013 Finalists (Winner: Keann Maharaj)

Winner of the Book Review 2013 project

Date:  Sunday 19th May 2013,
Venue: “The Transformation Centre”, situated at #56 Railway Road, Dow Village California.

This project was part “A” of our transition project, which seeks to facilitate the transition from “primary school” to “College”. This period in the young child’s life is also a transition as he/she moves from being a child to becoming an “early adolescence”. A dynamic time of physical maturation and emotional development; if inappropriately handled could result in the adolescent becoming delinquent, affected by low self–esteem and the multifaceted challenges associated with this stage of development.

Through the sustained implementation of this programme, individuals, groups, communities and our society will increasingly understand and appreciate that collectively we can make a significant different in our lives and in our society by planting seeds of “universal values”.

We are consistently working towards establishing character on the foundation of “integrity” which would ensure enhance institutions and environments. Passionately and constantly we enhance “knowledge” and “competencies” in individuals, organization and communities.


Be aware of the false – Social Butterfly

There are clearly defined groups of people on our planet; some are people who seem to be innately extroverted; some are introverted…some are nerds, some are dorks and some are even popular.

However we also have the person who does not fit into any of these groups; this short introduction is about this type of person whom I’ll call the “Social butterfly” it is an old term.

Have you ever watched a butterfly in action? If ever you have, you would have notice how busily they work the flower garden, flitting from flower to flower to glean a little nectar before moving on.

The actions of this insect however, is beautiful and full of purpose; the word I wish for you to remember is “purposeful”, remember this word every time a social butterfly comes your way, ask your self, to what purpose is this conversation?

Using this term descriptively I’ll like to apply it to persons who are extroverted and seem very comfortable in social situations. These persons can talk to anyone and they also seem to have a certain grace and ease at doing so. These individuals can move from person to person, group to group, sipping in the nectar of each engagement and at the same time sharing their views or ensuring their agenda is accomplished.

However, while the butterfly enhances the lives of flowers, these “false social butterfly” of today, are detractors to positive human growth and development; they sow seeds of discord among friends, group members, family members, community members and by extension members of the national community, and international community. They are greedy, lustful, envious, and speak ill of justice; they are vindictive and very manipulative, they detract from social development rather than enhance it.

Be aware of these seemly graceful, but venomous serpents! Their purpose is to steal, oppress and utterly destroy; they are not about to seek justice on your behalf, care about you or facilitate your empowerment.

Anderson Figaro,

Change Agent,

The Advisory Council T&T.

HIV The Challenging Reality

As this country joins the world in observing “Candlelight memorial” to remember those who have died from the disease, and to sensitized the public about the impact and methods of prevention, it is amazing when you reflect on the genesis of this microbiological time bomb, which was first identified in 1981 in five homosexual men in north America; three decades down the road millions are infected, which includes heterosexual men, women and children.   After three plus decades HIV remains a challenging reality; true, for many it has become a chronic disease; no longer considered by the infected as a death sentence; however the psychological well-being of the said infected individual is damaged by the relationships one must become actively engaged while seeking services, specifically at the overburdened treatments site.

An HIV infected individual can only experience excellent health, as the end product of biological, psychological and social factors. This article seeks to highlight a couple realities. However before these points are mentioned, what must be mentioned with full respect and heartfelt appreciation is a genuine “thank you” to the overworked, small but dedicated staff at the Medical Research Foundation; this is on behalf of the infected persons who must visit this professionally run treatment site.


Medical Research Foundation presently has a clientele of well over seven thousand clients (7000); there is one phlebotomist, who of course will be overworked, on any given day. This reality can easily facilitate mistakes in this very sensitive activity, just imagine a mix-up of person’s blood, think carefully of all the very possible consequences, just think. Therefore , it is important for all key stakeholders to recognized that quality treatment is a major pillar in ensuring quality and sustainable prevention; quality treatment is quality prevention.

Instead of investing huge sums of money in very irrelevant paraphernalia to accommodate irrelevant awareness projects and programmes, at least a percentage of that money should be invested in establishing more treatment sites; sites that would be easily accessable to such a large clientele that comes from various parts of Trinidad and Tobago.

Do you know what is very frightening about HIV, as it increases at an alarming rate, and quite a large percentage, perhaps 50% of persons who are HIV infected are totally unaware of their HIV positive status, which means they are transmitting the virus with every sexual encounter they have. The double jeopardy; if you speak to almost anyone, they will tell you that they know about HIV, they know what to do and what not to do to protect themselves from becoming HIV infected. The mystery however, after spending millions on awareness projects, how do we convince ourselves and others to transfer “knowledge” into “action”; the reality or evidence of this problem is clear; is it not stated that we have been seeing three new cases for the last nine years.


What is the experience and very possible consequences of the HIV infected person. Just to have your blood taken and collect medication, your stay is no less than four hours at the site. Can you imagine the psychological stress that person goes through. Are you aware that stress produces a wide range of effects on the human body. It is proven that stress compromises the body’s immune system, and you are aware that the immune system is the first line of defence against invaders like HIV; which attacks specialized white blood cells, called lymphocytes. These white cells circulate throughout the bloodstream, searching and destroying trespassers like HIV. When the HIV infected individual have to endure such long agonizing hours for treatment, what is the outcome?  The emotions that such an experience elicits weaken the immune system ability to protect from other infections, remember the immune system is already comprised by HIV. The stress brought on by such experiences triggers the release of adrenaline and other stress hormones into the bloodstream, and the hormones tend to suppress immune cell activity, making the HIV infected individual very vulnerable to illness, or opportunistic infections, like the common cold, herpes, and while this is not an infection, coronary heart disease (CHD), this is also a very possible end product of stress.


On behalf of the infected persons I am calling upon the relevant authorities to take a deeper look at the services provided for the infected individual; look also at the impact it is having on the genuine service providers at the Medical Research Foundation and invest to enhance the services, the staff, new treatment sites, really engaged and involve the community.


To the HIV infected individual, know that health springs from optimism, have faith and hope, they are very important parts of your healing process.


Anderson Figaro,


Change Agent,

Advisory Council Of T&T.

The Voice Of One-Overcomers Club.

PROJECT LAUNCH – Caring From Within – December 1, 2012

This is a project that has the potential to change the course of HIV and AIDS. After reviewing all that has been done, we have renewed our optimism; we can change the course of the HIV epidemic.

“Caring from within”.  The project serves as an urgent preparation tool and call to action, from every individual, organization and community. It acknowledges that in seizing the potential possible in synergistic work, we can actually change the course, cost and impact of HIV. However, this will require, among other key variables, enhance knowledge, commitment and action at all levels; each and every stakeholder in the HIV and AIDS response must play their role.

It is on this backdrop that “The Voice Of One-Overcomers Club”, a non-governmental organization with over a decade of practical experience combined with the relevant tertiary education and training in the social sciences and spirituality have conceptualized and implemented, “Caring from within” as a component of its programme, “Choice, Not Chance, Determines Destiny”. On Saturday 1st December 2012 we will formally launch this initiative.

You are cordially invited to this dynamic experience that will stimulate and enhance your capacity to ably influence change. This change will facilitate the proper social functioning of individuals, organizations and communities.

This unique experience will come to you via a seminar, to be held at our facility; situated at #56 Railway Road, Dow Village, California, on 1st December 2012. We start at 9:00 AM. Lunch and light refreshment will be served. There is no cost to you, except your time, attention and meaningful participation.

For further information concerning this unique and dynamic experience, please call, 679-6747 or 781-1275; and make haste, for space is limited.

Anderson Figaro

Change agent, Counsellor, Advocate and Educator

Member of The Advisory Council of T&T