World AIDS Day. Around the globe, communities, individuals, cities, campos, institutions, Peace Corps Volunteers, families and neighbors celebrate Day of the Battle Against HIV/AIDS on December 1st. As a Peace Corps Volunteer, it almost feels required (especially as a Health Volunteer) to plan an event to observe this important international day of observance.
I kicked off the big weekend with a quick/spur of the moment trip to Pimentel which is near San Francisco de Macoris and where a good friend and fell health PCV, Jose, lives. His Escojo Mi Vida groups had written and planned a musical for World AIDS Day called, “Que Hay Debajo La Falda da Melina” (What’s Beneath Melina’s Skirt), a play about a prostitute who is HIV Positive. It was a great success, with amazing turnout. Then we got a chance to go have a night on the town with a few other volunteers who traveled there for the event. Poor decision was staying out until nearly 4 in the morning and then having to leave back to my site at 7am. But I made it…
Today I got a chance to spend 7 hours with a group of dedicated women, youth and volunteers to observe World AIDS Day (a day late) here in my site. We spent our day learning more about HIV/AIDS, discussing the importance of learning about the virus, sharing personal stories and teaching in the community.
It was a fun activity to be in charge of planning, because most of the time I got to focus on the logistics of the day while everyone else shared their knowledge and participated in activities. The day went a little something like this:
5:00am – James wakes up to finish getting ready and to head to the pueblo
8:50am – James arrives to a locked (it was supposed to be unlocked) Community Center
9:05am – James arrives after a panicked wild goose chase for the one set of Community Center keys (I went to a colmado, an old woman’s house, a mechanic shop, and an afterschool center…it would have helped if I knew to ask for a MAN named Irene and not a WOMAN named Irene).
9:15am – James is ready at the community center with a registration table set up and folders, nametags, red ribbons and all sorts of goodies for the participants
9:25am – The first person arrives
10:30am – People are still arriving but we start with a welcome, a dinamica, self-introductions, prayer to GOD, discussion of why we’re here today and snack!
10:50am – A quick review of HIV, the four liquids that transmit HIV and the three activities that can propagate the virus.
11:15am – March through the Pueblo with signs and passing out red-ribbons chanting “No Queremos SIDA, Queremos VIDA!” (We don’t want AIDS, we want life!)
11:40am – Review of the ABCs of Prevention (Abstinence, Being Faithful, Condoms)
11:50am – Art Activity where the participants divided into groups and made posters explaining why, how and who can prevent HIV/AIDS (ABCs and all that jazz) followed by the groups heading out into the community to post the posters in public places like Colmados, Bancas and on electricity poles
12:40pm – Lunch Arrived
1:30pm – Charla by my Regional Escojo Coordinator Vidal about the Myths surrounding how HIV is transmitted
2:00pm – Charla by PCV Yvette about how to use a condom (including a Condom Race)
2:40pm – Discussion about ways to start conversations about Sex, Condoms and Prevention with Husbands and Youth
3:00pm – Snack!
3:15pm – A visit from a young female Dominican doctor to talk about HIV, Pregnancy and HIV, and how women can navigate HIV/AIDS in a Machismo culture.
4:00pm – Closing words.
It was a full, but a VERY full, day. I was pretty happy.
Yvette and I stopped by the Escojo office with a few jovenes to hang out for a bit just chatting and having a good laugh after a long day. I came home and relaxed and luckily it started downpouring so I got to close my door early.
Highlight of the day? To be completely honest…I got to make an egg-white and spinach scrambler because I picked up spinach in San Francisco on my way home on Saturday. This is my first Spinach EVER in the Dominican Republic.