Tuesday, January 15, 2013

World Aids Day

In Africa, every PCV is an HIV/Aids volunteer, regardless of our primary assignments.  I'm living in a country that was once considered a success story within SubSaharan Africa in terms of its fight against the HIV epidemic. Recent years have seen the numbers slipping back up, and whether it's from a sense of complacency due to past achievements or a shift in the culture to be much more conservative (thus driving behaviors that transmit HIV underground where they are less likely to be talked about and more likely to keep the virus around) no one is absolutely sure.  WAD was on a Saturday this year, and the week leading up to it was spent preparing information to be shared at a booth walk, planning with members of my college's PIASCY club (President's Initiative on AIDS Strategy Communication to the Youth... basically an AIDS awareness club that's at almost every school in the country), and figuring out the logistics for how the day would run.  Matt, Mary, Stella, Jacque, Rachel, and I were all gathered in my tiny home the night before hoping and wishing that some last minute items would arrive from Kampala.  Taking an idea from Pinterest, we'd created two sided cards with information on the major drivers of the HIV/Aids epidemic, one side in English and the other in Lango.  We attached these cards to key rings and handed them out the participants.

We started the day with a 5K run again, this time we had double the participants than last year - 100! They were almost all students at the college, fewer community members, but we weren't complaining. It was incredible.  After the race, however, the tutor on duty decided that there needed to be the typical Saturday morning assembly followed by general cleaning since there was to be an event held later that day.  The good-bye ceremony for the retirees was supposed to be held the weekend after Thanksgiving, but it was postponed a week due to lack of funds.  This put it the same day as our WAD event... We had planned to hold the awards ceremony directly after the race, and then move into the complex hall to do the booth walk.  We had six booths prepared, each with four PIASCY members teaching the information.  They centered on STDs and Sexual Health, Being Faithful, Condom Demonstration (and subsequent relay race), What is HIV?, Women's Health, and Truths & Myths.  The students doing the teaching were ready to go, they were excited, they were taking the lead in getting everything going... and then it just flopped.  The assembly and general cleaning meant that everything dispersed and that the health fair didn't really pick up until almost two hours later.  It was frustrating knowing how much work we and the students had put into the day only to see it be derailed so quickly.  Eventually people did come back and sign in and walk around the booths to learn about the various drivers of the epidemic, and just like the race it was more successful than last years.  Jacque and I sat chatting at the front table discussing how happy we were with the way things were going (with obvious exceptions) and how much better we could do it again if we were given a third year.  Then we both laughed at the prospect of extending simply to do a WAD event again.  It's strange being so far in my service and looking back to see all the things I would have done differently.  It would have been amazing to get something like this organized and have my PIASCY students do a traveling health fair of sorts, instead of just focusing on one day out of the year.  Afterwards, we talked to the club and told them we'd be handing over all of the materials we'd used in hopes that they would put on the event the next year.  They seemed beyond excited about it all, so hopefully it'll happen.  

Thanks Mike for designing our shirts again this year! 

Mary & Matt registering race runners

Taking off for the loop around Boroboro

Coming into the finish! 

Jacque registering a participant for the health fair

"Knowledge only grows through sharing"

Participants wrote down things they'd learned and attached the links together

Teaching about proper condom usage, then participants got to practice themselves in a relay race

PIASCY member teaching about how HIV destroys the immune system


Couldn't have happened without you guys!!

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