FGH Employee Highlight: Health Counselor Evaristo Ricardo reflects on FGH’s commitment to the LGBTQIA+ Community

Adapted from the special June 2023 edition of FGH Breves, the official newsletter of Friends in Global Health, in celebration of Pride Month.

This June, FGH celebrated Pride Month and its continued support of the LGBTQIA+ community in Mozambique. FGH promotes social equity and the reduction of stigma and discrimination against LGBTQIA+ people as a vital part of the fight against HIV/AIDS. 

Evaristo (Eva) Ricardo is a 27 year old resident of Mocuba, a rural district in Zambézia Province. He has been an FGH Health Counselor for three years and is a proud member of the LGBTQIA+ community.

In his adolescence, he discovered that he had a different sexual orientation, identifying strongly with his feminine side. Being the child of pastors, he initially sought spiritual help, believing he was possessed. As an adolescent, Eva experienced discrimination at school and suffered rejection at home due to his sexual orientation. Through LAMBDA, an LGBTQIA+ advocacy association in Mozambique and FGH partner, he met other people of different sexual orientations and for the first time he felt comfortable in his identity.

For Eva, identifying as LGBTQIA+ in Zambézia Province comes with challenges. There are still obstacles in accessing employment and equal rights. But things are changing. “[Being gay] means being someone who draws attention and attracts the gaze of curious people wherever they go. There are still those who look at me with distrust. However, I must say that in the cities of Quelimane and Mocuba, more respect for us is already evident.”

Trained in Preventive Medicine, Eva has been working as an FGH Health Counselor assigned to Mocuba Health Center for the last three years. Prior to arriving in Mocuba, he worked in the provincial capital of Quelimane, at the Sangarivera Health Center. “When I arrived [in Mocuba] to work, it was a surprise for all my colleagues. They did not expect to have a gay colleague. But they quickly welcomed me and I am very happy with the work I do.”

In addition to the supportive work environment, Eva praises FGH’s commitment to the implementation of HIV health services created specifically to assist members of the LGBTQIA+ community. “In the past, it was difficult to access health services. The inclusion of men who have sex with men (MSM) as a key population is very important. Receiving [specialized] attention in health sector initiatives represents greater access to care and treatment, including for HIV. We need to increasingly create a welcoming environment for [LGBTQIA+ patients] to feel free to talk about all their health concerns.”

In 2022, FGH conducted training for improved interpersonal communication between providers and patients which included a component on improving the quality of care for LGBTQIA+ patients. A total of 510 health care providers were trained from 35 health centers across 17 FGH-supported districts in Zambézia Province. 

Pride Month has special meaning to Eva. “June represents joy for me. It’s the month of celebration and it serves to raise awareness in the community and the world about respect for diversity. This is the month when we talk about the importance of respecting the diverse sexuality of every person and moving towards a world without discrimination.”

FGH Health Counselor Evaristo Ricardo