Number of People with Nothing Better to Do

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

I do actually do some work down here

Winner of the bulletin board contest
Obstetriz, student health promoters and me
Pasacalle through my town (I live a block from here)

Looking back on some of my entries, it looks like I'm just down here in Peru "hueveando" (f*#&ing off) and having a good time. But I am actually doing some work as well. Right before the Christmas/New Years holidays, I worked on an HIV/AIDS awareness campaign affectionately known as PEPFAR. PEPFAR is a fund created during the not-so-smart Bush administration to promote HIV/AIDS awareness and improve AIDS treatment world wide. The thought being that a serious problem in other parts of the world would in turn become a serious problem for the US, even though it already is. Per PEPFAR, HIV/AIDS prevention should focus on abstinence first, then marriage/faithfulness, and then condoms. When I informed my local counterparts that we really had to stress abstinence and marriage as part of this program, they laughed at me. Abstinence? Marriage and/or faithfulness? You ain't from around here are ya gringo? Tell ya what, we'll bring up the abstinence and the marriage/faithfulness things but we'll be realistic and really focus on the use of condoms.

My community counterparts on this project were the obstetrician in my health post and the nurse health promoter. The target audience of the awareness campaign was high school students. We started out by giving all the students in the school a pre-test asking them about AIDS/HIV, how you can get infected, who can get it, etc. We then selected and trained a group of student health promoters and trained them on all that is HIV/AIDS. Later we gave charlas (talks) to all the students and teachers. We did activities where the students had fun, participated, gave their views, identified risky behaviors, and had hands-on practice (tee hee hee – actually the kids were pretty grown up about the whole thing and only snickered a little when we put rubbers on fake dicks.)

After our educational sessions, we had a bulletin board contest. One minor problem - none of the classrooms had bulletin boards. I used some of the grant money to buy materials to build bulletin boards for each class and the students assembled them in shop class. I went to a lumber yard with the shop teacher to buy the materials. There on the shop floor loaded with tripping hazards, they cut the wood to our specifications with open, unguarded table saws with no kill switches getting their fingers within millimeters of the spinning blades. It was a Certified Safety Professional's (CSP®) nightmare. When it came time to pay, it was about twice as much as I had budgeted. But all's well that ends well and the students did a nice job of building solid bulletin boards. Local leaders judged the bulletin board contest and the students were pretty creative and colorful, if not a bit graphic.

On World AIDS Day we did a pasacalle (parade/march) through the streets of Rio Grande. The students made signs, the health promoters wore tee shirts they designed, a little band played, and we walked through the streets making buya (noise). I'm not sure how much awareness we raised and it was hot as shit but maybe someone paid attention. At the end, we had soda crackers and chicha morada (a sweet purple corn drink – sounds kind of gross but it's not too bad once you get used to it).

At the end of the campaign, we gave a post-test to see what they learned. The results weren't as good as I'd hoped for but scores did improve by around 20%. The 1st and 2nd years students improved considerably. The average for the 5th year students (seniors), however, dropped. I chalk it up to senioritis since we gave the quiz the last week of school and they had probably checked out already.

Other projects on the horizon, pending funding, include changing out water supply tubes to increase the volume of potable water coming into my town, building cocinas mejoradas (improved wood burning stoves), recycling and viviendas saludables (healthy household) campaigns.

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