Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Training Day

This past month has been incredibly busy but also quite fulfilling. I am working on a new project that focuses on prevention. The idea behind the project is to train young women to be peer educators. They are trained on HIV/AIDS, HIV and STI prevention, and how to counsel people. Then, equipped with this training, the young women are supposed to go out into various sections of the city and do education and basic counseling for other young women their age. The idea behind it is that people's peers are more effective at delivering HIV messages and affecting change than health professionals or older people.

We did interviews two weeks ago and I wanted to do a big training day to gauge how much they knew about HIV/AIDS and STIs. I worked all week to put together presentations, demonstrations, and games about HIV, condoms, STIs, behavior change, and peer education. I also designed a pre and post test to determine if the participants learned anything and to get a feel for how well they knew the material.

All the women groaned when I handed out the test to start the day but it went well after that. We had some lively discussions about HIV. When we talked about the origins of HIV, two of the peer educators told me they believed that it was created in an American lab to wipe out Africans. We debated it for a few minutes and I finally had to put a stop to it. I hope I can change their minds in the future, and I am amazed at how firmly people grasp to superstitions. (We also ran into some more superstitions when we talked about STIs).

One of the lighter moments was when I had to demonstrate how to use male and female condoms for the group. I went through both demonstrations and then had a question about how strong male condoms are. I answered that they are strong enough to put over your arm without breaking and then pulled one out to show them. As I was stretching it over my hand, I think one of my fingernails nicked it and it broke right away. I stood there thinking how dumb I looked and there was some laughter in the room. I got another one out and showed them successfully after that.

All in all, it was a great day. I am enjoying this project and really feel like I am doing meaningful work, which has been a real boost for my morale. Now, all I have to do is get people to drop their superstitions and do the demonstrations correctly.