This past week I did what thousands of Peace Corps Volunteers around the world have done, I went through a week long intensive HIV/AIDS training. In many countries, Peace Corps volunteers arrive with their 2 year mission being to combat the spread of HIV and AIDS and provide medical care to those infected. However, all volunteers who serve in Africa, the Caribbean, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia, regardless of their primary focus, are trained in basic HIV/AIDS prevention and care. It is a worldwide initiative that is seeing results.
As far as statistics go, Colombia is about on par with the United States, both having an adult prevelence rate of .6% This is a far cry from Swaziland, a country in Africa with the highest percentage of adult HIV/AIDS cases at at staggering 26.10% Can you imagine more than one out of four people over the age of 15 having HIV or AIDS? Or in South Africa where there are 5.3 million people living with HIV or AIDS?
The last time I sat through any informative session on HIV/AIDS was over a decade ago in high school Health class, and I must say there was some misinformation on my part and serious gaps in information. Although it made for some long days sitting in a conferenc room in Barranquilla listening to technical Spanish, I learned a lot and am excited to implement some new projects at my site. Focusing on sustainabilty, every Peace Corps brought a 'counterpart' from the community to the training as well. This way when we leave in a year and a half, we don't take all the information with us!! I brought Marling from a fantastic NGO called Granitos de Paz who is a social worker working in the areas of health and family training in one of Cartagena's poorest neighborhoods. I can't wait to see what programs we can set up together for the community.
Our training covered everything from facts and statistics about HIV/AIDS and how it attacks the human body, how the virus is and ISN'T transmitted, prevention, behavior modifaction techniques to target risky behaviors that transmit HIV, presentations from a Colombian doctor to discuss HIV/AIDS in Colombia, presentations from local ONGs who are working in the area of HIV preventions, a panel of experts, correct condom use, stigmas and discrimination and their effects on those infected with HIV/AIDS, sex, gender and HIV, and lastly how to present the information and impower various groups in our communities...as well as some icebreaker/team building activities to keep the day moing along and participants in high spirits.
|Abby not so enthusiastically modeling the newly learned pinch and roll technique of applying a condom in order to keep air out of the condom and reducing the risk of the condom breaking|
A visual representation of how HIV affects/attacts the body, weakening the immune system so opportunistic diseases such as the common cold, diarrhea, and pneumonia cause serious problems. A great activity to be used with a younger audience!
|and having way to much fun doing it!!|
|Doing and activity where I play|
my group like a piano...
And what Colombian, or rather Costeno because I hear the folks on the interior are quite different, event would be complete without a raging party? We were celebrating 3 Peace Corps volunteer birththdays during AIDS training and about 10 participants in the month of May so most people chipped in, bought a birthday cake, baloons, hats, and masks to celebrate in style. This is a common occurance at all of the schools we work at on a monthly basis. It's a kinda crazy...
|I'll be the first to admit, this is entirely overbard...|
|but when in Rome!|
Well, like always, thanks for reading folks! Stick around for a few more minutes if you want to test your knowledge of HIV/AIDS. (Answers at the bottom!)
1. Which on of the following liquids does NOT transmit HIV?
a) semen b) breast milk c) saliva d) blood e) vaginal fluids
2. Rank the four bodily fluids that transmit HIV from most potent to least.
3. Who are more likely to transmit HIV to their partners, men or women?
4. How long is the window from potential exposure until an HIV test can come back positive?
5. What does Vertical Transmition refer to in the transmition of HIV?
6. Spitting out the semen after giving oral sex greatly lessens the risk of contracting HIV? T/F
7. How long after contracting HIV can you go asymptomatic?
8. What are the three ways of preventing the spread of HIV, sexually speaking.
9. Which sex act has the highest risk of transmitting HIV: anal, vaginal, or oral sex?
10. There is effective medication to prevent the spread of HIV from mother to child in utero? T/F
1. SALIVA! So kiss away!
2. Blood --> Semen --> Vaginal Fluids --> Breast Milk
3. Seeing as semen is a more potent carrier of HIV, MEN are more likely to give HIV to their partner.
4. After potential exposure, the earliest you can know if you have contracted HIV is three months, but most cases become evident between 3 and 6 months.
5. Vertical Transmition is when a mother passes HIV to her child during pregnancy/childbirth
6. FALSE!! Once the semen is in your mouth it is being absorbed through pours in your mouth and the damage is done.
7. A person with HIV/AIDS can go up to 10 years without showing any signs of the virus/disease.
8. Abstinence, fidelity, and proper use of a condom.
9. Anal sex has the highest risk of spreading HIV.
10. TRUE. If a pregnant women with HIV or AIDS takes proper medication she can reduce the chance of vertical transmittion from 33% to around 5%