Buenas from Ecuador! This is Rebecca Stacy writing from Guayaquil. It's hard to believe we are finishing with our third week in Ecuador. Our experiences have been invaluable and we are excited to return home with a new enthusiasm for Latino Mental Health. While I've learned an incredible amount in a short time, I found our rotation at Maternidad Sotomayor most interesting.
Maternidad Sotomayor is one of the largest maternity hospitals in South America; they deliver about 100 babies each day. Our role in Maternidad Sotomayor was to help educate pregnant woman about HIV as well as provide follow up care to mothers who recently delivered. Chelsea and Claudia were our supervisors during our rotation and were very supportive and helpful throughout.
Chelsea, in Ecuador through the Peace Corps, provided us with education about HIV transmission and prevention. We learned that there are 3 primary ways of transmission: sexual transmission, blood transmission, and vertical transmission (mother to infant). We also discussed the three most effective ways to prevent HIV: abstinence, mutual fidelity, and use of condoms. Chelsea also dispelled many myths, for example, that HIV is not contagious and is not passed through insects such as mosquitos. We learned about the medication regimens and how to treat patients with HIV when they first come into the hospital. The program plan at the maternity hospital involves being testing right away for HIV. If the test is reactive, the program will provide psychological and physical aid. Mothers will have a caesarean birth, take medication, and be provided with formula. The HIV vertical transmission prevention plan in Ecuador is valuable in that their treatment is completely free. In the United States, these medications can be very expensive. (Did I mention the cost of delivering a baby is $18? At home, this cost is around $16,000).
Our rotation also included being able to talk to patients who recently gave birth as well as those who were having pregnancy complications. It was challenging to talk to these women because there are about 40 women per room, some with HIV and some without. Privacy and confidentiality were difficulty to maintain although the doctors and patients tried their best through speaking quietly and not directly mentioning the diagnosis.
The time I spent at Maternidad Sotomayor was a great experience and made me feel lucky to have astounding medical care back home, especially in the Boston area. I am excited to return home with a new set of knowledge that affects all cultures and will be applicable to the patients I treat. Similarly, learning the terms for explaining HIV transmission in Spanish and English has been valuable. For those students going to Ecuador next year, I would definitely recommend this rotation.
Nos vemos! Rebecca Stacy