Testing Positive

brookeinmoz:

My day begins between 6 and 6:30am, just as the women in my area begin sweeping their yards with tethered bundles of sticks and the booming bass of music begins blaring from houses near and far. Instead of the call of roosters I hear donkeys and the rumble of semi trucks as they make their way down the main ‘estrada’ that cuts through Changara. I boil water for coffee, sweep the house and veranda, take a bucket bath and am off to work around 7:50am. Towards the end of August I began my work at the hospital, and now make my way to the HIV/AIDS ward, or ATS (Acontecimiento e Testagem de Saúde), where we test and counsel patients. 

HIV/AIDS is a very real and ever growing issue here. Of the 1.6 million people living in Mozambique, about one-third are living with HIV/AIDS, more than 90,000 of them are children under the age of 15. Of this one-third living with HIV/AIDS, 5% (roughly 26,600 people) live in Tete Province. But the numbers, data and facts never prepared me for my first week in the hospital and before I knew it, in the midst of the life altering moments of complete strangers, I was having my own life altering moments. I arrived at the ATS ward and wandered into a room where our activists and counselors were preparing for the day in the field, putting together their backpacks of HIV tests, cotton swabs and paperwork. I said my greetings and I sat quietly in the corner waiting for someone to ask me to do something. Eventually everyone left and still unsure of what I was supposed to be doing, I continued to sit and wait. After about a half an hour our counselor appeared in the doorway with an older woman, frail and weathered looking. I quickly realized this was a patient and I asked if should leave, but she insists, “No, stay! Stay!”. The patient sits next to me, coughing and groaning. They’re speaking Nyungue, the local Bantu language, so I understand none of what’s being said but watch as our counselor puts on rubber gloves and points to the various posters on the wall that illustrate how HIV attacks the human body.

I’m going to watch this woman test for HIV.

I observe as her finger is pricked, her blood is tested, and two little red lines appear on the testing strip.

She’s positive.

I’ve never seen anyone tested for HIV, let alone test positive. This is such a life changing moment, all I want to do is leave the room. I don’t belong here and I can’t imagine that this woman appreciates having a strange white woman sitting next to her during such an intimate moment. The counselor slips out of the room, leaving us in the room together side-by-side. I don’t know where to look or if I should say something to console her, but I hear a sniffling, look over, and realize she’s weeping into her hands. I can feel my face getting hot and the pressure building in my chest as I choke back tears. Not before long our counselor arrives, fills out paperwork and sends the patient on her way. Before I can process what just happened or get my stuff together to get out of that room, she’s escorting in a mother and two little girls, each clutching a Hannah Montana purse and fried sweet bread. They’re each tested in just the same way. One of the little girls tests positive. I watch her swing her feet and munch innocently on her bread as her mom receives the news, knowing this little girls life just changed forever. She can’t be more than 11 years old. But they seem fine, laughing even. They leave and I can hear more laughter and music coming from the main entrance.

I ask our counselor if this work is hard for her, doesn’t she want to cry, too? She replies with a snort and a smile and says, “Nada”. I’m not sure if they’re laughing to cover up for grief and nervousness or if discovering you’re HIV+ is so common it’s not worth tears, but one thing is clear: my own perception of HIV/AIDS is very much different than theirs. On one hand this is extremely frustrating, how can they act so nonchalant about something so serious? On the other hand this is comforting, they know their status, can begin treatment and continue with their lives.

Our next patient to enter is a young woman with her two year old tied to her back. The baby just tested positive in pediatrics and the mother wants a test as well. The baby’s cooing and the mother adjusts her capulana as they wait for the test results. I watch as two little red lines appear on her test strip.

She’s tested positive, too.

It’s not even 1:00pm yet. 

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For 2011’s World AIDS Day, Peace Corps Burkina Faso’s Community Health and AIDS Taskforce (CHAT) designed a project that was funded by SPA grants integrating HIV/AIDS awareness murals and educational symposiums all across the country. Over 70 Peace Corps Volunteers participated reaching more than 50 communities and hundreds of target populations. I held several HIV/AIDS ‘ceremonies’ where different target populations of villagers pledged to spread awareness, practice safe sex and get tested by leaving their handprint on the wall after taking the pledge. This photo was taken at the clinic in my village (where the mural was painted) after the session that the local midwife and I ran with my 6th grade girls group.

- Peace Corps Health Volunteer Hayley Droppert

For 2011’s World AIDS Day, Peace Corps Burkina Faso’s Community Health and AIDS Taskforce (CHAT) designed a project that was funded by SPA grants integrating HIV/AIDS awareness murals and educational symposiums all across the country. Over 70 Peace Corps Volunteers participated reaching more than 50 communities and hundreds of target populations. I held several HIV/AIDS ‘ceremonies’ where different target populations of villagers pledged to spread awareness, practice safe sex and get tested by leaving their handprint on the wall after taking the pledge. This photo was taken at the clinic in my village (where the mural was painted) after the session that the local midwife and I ran with my 6th grade girls group.

- Peace Corps Health Volunteer Hayley Droppert

World AIDS Day global health Burkina Faso Africa health AIDS

Five Peace Corps Volunteers completed the first Tigray Trek in 2013 and educated nearly 530 community members in nine villages along the way. Their success and local community support led the Volunteers to organize this year’s trek, which has grown to include 15 additional runners and 12 additional volunteers to help lead educational sessions. 

Read more about it

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With nearly 3.5 million reported cases annually, malaria remains the number one killer in Ghana. Roughly one-third of all reported cases in Ghana are among children under the age of 5. This equates to nearly seven newly diagnosed cases of malaria every minute and almost 40 deaths of children under the age of 5 every day.
In an effort to optimize resources, Peace Corps Ghana’s Standing with Africa to Terminate (SWAT) Malaria Initiative teamed up with Tech Think Tank and an impressive crew of nearly 27 computer programmers to address this burden. The result of this collaboration was a hackathon, with malaria as the sole focus.

Read more about it here 

With nearly 3.5 million reported cases annually, malaria remains the number one killer in Ghana. Roughly one-third of all reported cases in Ghana are among children under the age of 5. This equates to nearly seven newly diagnosed cases of malaria every minute and almost 40 deaths of children under the age of 5 every day.

In an effort to optimize resources, Peace Corps Ghana’s Standing with Africa to Terminate (SWAT) Malaria Initiative teamed up with Tech Think Tank and an impressive crew of nearly 27 computer programmers to address this burden. The result of this collaboration was a hackathon, with malaria as the sole focus.

Read more about it here 

Ghana tech4dev Malaria global health Africa tech programming

It is easy to romanticize a life with limited connectivity: candles, campfires and conversations. And how creative of the Ugandans to keep their insulin floating in a ceramic pot buried in the dirt. But the reality is that the only difference between the boy in southwest Uganda and the boy in anytown, USA is one was born powerless, the other empowered at birth. The Oxford dictionary defines power as “the ability or capacity to do something.” It is how things get done.

Picture this: A tale of two babies - ONE.org

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ericwilburn:

Impromptu Malaria March

Today is World Malaria Day! According to WHO, 85% of Malaria cases and 90% of malaria deaths occur in Africa. Here in Alto, I have lost countless hours on projects to counterparts or a member of their family being sick with malaria. Fortunately, none of my close friends in Alto have lost family members to the disease while I’ve lived here, but a few had lost family members in the past.

I was feeling guilty about not planning any major events to create awareness and promote prevention and then it hit me. What resource in Mozambique is readily available, motivated and for all intents and purposes, unlimited? CRIANÇAS! Kids love marching around and screaming, so I figured we’d put their talents to some good use today. I hollered at Guebuza, my 9 year old neighbor and told him to grab some friends. We’re going on an impromptu Malaria March!

We started out with an intimidating crew of about 10, 5-9 year olds, and made our way down the hill, across the bridge, to the central market. All the way picking up a few kids here and losing a few kids there, but bringing it with some serious chanting. The main chants were:

“Usa!”

“Usa!”

“A Rede Mosquiteira!”

 “Use!”

“Use!”

“A Mosquito Net!”

“Podemos Prevenir”

“MALARIA!”

 “We can prevent”

“Malaria!”

“A Rede Mosquiteira!”

“HOYE!”

 “Mosquito Net”

 “Hurrah!”

After a brief stop at the central market to give an impromptu presentation about sleeping under a mosquito net, we made our way back across the bridge and half way up the giant hill before we had to take 5 in the shade.  We continued on and as I thought we were reaching the end near my house, we picked up about 30 more primary school students and thus did an extra lap through the primary and secondary schools (definitely interrupted testing, worth it for Malaria Prevention!). We finished the march at my house where I passed out water and doces americanas, ”american sweets”. The sweets were actually raisins, my health police mother would be proud.

 Often, I find that my favorite moments in Mozambique are the unplanned. At a minimum, I was able to put smiles on the faces of a bunch of crianças and taught them a bit about Malaria in the process. And hopefully, the local fofoca ”gossip” of the day will go a bit like this:

- “Did you see the American walking around with all those kids trapped in the mosquito net yelling about malaria?”

- “Yeah, probably the last thing I thought I’d see today! But I guess I should use the net I was given as a bed net instead of a fish catching device.. Malaria won’t affect my family!”

World Malaria Day global health Africa Mozambique reblogs Peace Corps Volunteers Malaria

My hope for the project was to allow these rather isolated, low resource communities to use their environment and culture as a tool to promote education, health, and intercultural interaction, while boosting economic prosperity throughout the region.

Peace Corps Education Volunteer Shane Butler loves running, and he’s using his love of running to engage his local community in East Java, Indonesia.

“When I first arrived, people thought I was crazy running around the hills,” said Butler, a graduate of the University of California at Santa Barbara. “Then they got used to it, and then my students joined me. Now I see more and more people practicing on their own. Running is so healthy for your physical health as well as your state of mind and willpower, so it’s been really rewarding to watch this transformation.”

Working with members of his community, Butler planned and hosted the first-ever marathon in the Mount Bromo region to infuse the local economy and bring people from all over the world together to learn about the local culture.

More than 900 people ran in the race, and runners represented more than 30 countries, including Australia, Brazil, Germany, India, South Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Another 5,000 people came to watch the event and join the festivities, which included an arts and culture festival the evening before the marathon. The festival promoted all aspects of the local culture and featured dance and music performances, art displays, and traditional cuisine.

The project generated income for area restaurants and hotels, and donations were collected to support five school libraries in four different villages as well as one community library in the region. The donations will fund more books, tables and chairs at the libraries, and training for staff and students on library maintenance.

Butler teaches regularly at a local high school and runs an English conversation club. He also coaches cross-country running, and all 25 members of his cross-country team participated in the marathon. In addition to regular fitness training, cross-country team members learn about nutrition, fitness, hygiene, and social responsibility.

running fitness Indonesia marathons global health education

Peace Corps Volunteer Kate Young is spearheading a school nutrition project to address malnutrition in her Guatemalan community by educating preschool students and their parents on long-term healthy eating habits.

Young, who has been working as a municipal development advisor in Guatemala since 2010, was inspired to pursue the project after coordinating a basic health examination for children at her local preschool.

“I made an appointment with the community hospital for the health nurses to weigh, measure and examine all of the students,” said Young, a graduate of Rutgers University. “Of those examined, 54 percent were malnourished.”

Working with fellow Peace Corps Volunteers and the local government, Young has planted vegetable gardens on the school’s grounds and trained the children’s mothers in gardening, harvesting crops, nutrition and cooking. Young has also helped the mothers plant family gardens at their homes.

Read more about the project

nutrition Guatamala global health maternal health healthy eating

What we do in the Peace Corps

rebeccaandwill:

image

We are community health empowerment facilitators implementing goals laid out in the Community Health Empowerment Project strategic framework.

We are not clinicians, but we are here to do capacity building and behavior change among the clinicians, the local health volunteers, and the villagers. (A communications plan to complement the strategic plan would go far in aiding this mission, and I’ve already expressed the value of having one. We’ll see if this develops during the next two years.)

So now that I got those buzzwords in (strategic framework, capacity building, behavior change), let me break it down for you. Fiji’s Ministry of Health is doing what it can to reverse what is essentially a non-communicable disease (NCD) “crisis” in this country of nearly 900,000. With one of the highest rates of diabetes in the world:

  • One in three Fijians has diabetes
  • An amputation occurs every 12.6 hours in Fiji
  • Only 16 percent of Fijians live past 55 years old

Of course treating the NCDs is critical, but the ministry recognizes that educating the public about their behaviors will go along way in improving these deadly statistics.

That’s where we come in. We are working with the ministry to educate Fijians about what they can do to avoid NCDs: physical activity, healthy food choices, go to the doctor early instead of ignoring symptoms. We are working to build their capacity so that they have the knowledge to live healthy lives, and to teach their children about living healthy, long after we leave Fiji. 

Will and I are in a unique situation with an open field of development opportunities because we’re in a remote region that hasn’t had Peace Corps volunteers since the 70s, and those were education volunteers. We’re at the subdivisional level, which operates a hospital, a health center, a health inspector’s office, a dentist’s office, a maternal child health clinic, and multiple nursing stations throughout six islands. We have the opportunity to educate Fijians about:

  • NCD prevention
  • Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • Sanitation and hygiene
  • Women’s empowerment
  • Maternal-child health

So far we’ve given health talks to villagers and trained health workers about practices for women’s self-care and diabetes and hypertension prevention. Our subdivision is in the process of developing its business plan for the upcoming year, so things are a bit slow now. This gives us an opportunity to get to know our community and establish a relationship with the villagers, so they feel comfortable with us and trust us as we move forward together during these next two years.

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