As I mentioned in my last post, at the maternity hospital in Guayaquil, part of the rotation assignment includes delivering HIV/AIDS-related "charlas" or "talks" to pregnant women. Even on Day 2 this task feels somewhat overwhelming when looking at the faces of 50+ very tired and very pregnant women. Fortunately the order of our group's rotations has been quite effective in preparing us for each consecutive placement. After witnessing the women's general receptivity to the "taboo" information we present them with, I am seeing how powerful even informal educational sessions can be. In Ecuador, 98% of the cases of transmission of the HIV virus are spread through some form of unprotected sexual contact (Source: Fundación VIHDA), which is different from transmission trends in the U.S. (Here's a link to the CDC's page on transmission of HIV in the U.S.) This morning in particular, several women seemed to "perk up" at the idea of Mutual Fidelity. I would like to think that some of them even latched onto the concept of improving communication with their partner(s), raising the issue of being tested for HIV and even going as far as to request the use of condoms for each sexual contact and with each partner.
After this week's experiences, I anticipate a substantial shift in some of the work I do this Fall. Back in Brockton, I would like to do some outreach work in HIV/AIDS education based out of the community mental health setting. While these types of programs are certainly available, sometimes they run out of funds to fuel them. Hopefully part of my volunteer work will give me the opportunity to deliver more "charlas" to communities in Massachusetts, an experience that will continue to be enriching long after returning from Ecuador.