Health Education, Prevention and Intervention
Soy Capaz! Updates
Elena Deem, PhD, runs the Soy Capaz program. Read her blog, Something's Stirring in the Amazon Jungle about select expeditions, patient stories, and fundraising events.
HIV Prevention: The Regional Situation
HIV/AIDS has been steadily progressing into the remote jungle district of Loreto where Amazon Promise operates (areas marked red on the map). The city of Iquitos now ranks second in HIV incidence in Peru. Recent studies conducted by the Peruvian government and the UN confirm that the native and Mestizo communities in the Peruvian Amazon are already experiencing heightened numbers of HIV infection. But the Peruvian Ministry of Health lacks the resources for HIV-prevention campaigns and patient care in the remote areas.
The configuration of these factors makes the region extremely vulnerable to the epidemic spread of the HIV virus. The Upper Amazon area of Peru represents a time bomb ready to explode.
What We Are Doing
In response, Amazon Promise has created ¡Soy Capaz!. In August of 2006, we began our first official ¡Soy Capaz! campaign in Iquitos and in the river villages. Since then, thousands of people have attended our workshops, lectures, and other promotional activities. In the villages, we aim to establish a network of informed leaders of the communities (e.g. medical health promoters, school teachers, midwives and others) who collaborate across their fields, raising awareness about HIV in our absence. This "HIV-prevention net" is destined to eventually take over our work in every village we regularly visit.
Our ¡Soy Capaz! campaign contains the following:
- Educational and promotional materials that are updated each year. In addition to short handouts, the campaign offers extensive folders for health promoters and teachers. We also design and produce HIV-prevention posters, T-shirts and banners to reach the broadest possible audiences.
- Public forums and lectures. A typical lecture contains information about the most frequent means of HIV transmission and prevention, and a demonstration of how to use a condom correctly. In some villages, our volunteers perform a drama sketch about safe behavior in critical situations.
- Free condoms are distributed at our mobile clinics to those who solicit them. The demand is overwhelming. Each year, we hand out over 30,000 condoms. We have received support from the Ministry of Health of Peru who supply ~15% of condoms for our project.
- Outreach to schools where we hold classes and workshops about sexuality, STDs and HIV prevention. We teach the mechanisms of safe sexual conduct. Teaching materials with communicative exercises are provided to teachers.
- Training of local village "Promoters of Health," certified midwives, and other village representatives.
- Informed, rapid HIV testing to those who ask to be tested or are referred to us by the attending doctors. Our informed testing is always accompanied by counseling and referrals to the appropriate institutions for re-testing, further counseling, and antiretroviral treatment if a patient tests positive.
¡Soy Capaz! in Iquitos
Our activities in Iquitos also include support for our HIV patients who come to town from the remote villages. Our Patient Care provides economic support, housing, referrals and help with hospital procedures.
We partner with Lazos de Vida, a local association of promoters living with HIV, some of whom give talks during our clinics. The association is well-organized and serious about its mission, running a house for HIV orphans and promoting HIV-prevention in the reagion.
¡Soy Capaz! also collaborates with the following:
Peruvian Ministry of Health: The regional Ministry of Health recognizes us as one of the HIV-prevention and patient care organizations in the region. We are currently working with the MOH towards the de-centralization of HIV testing and antiretroviral treatment.
CERITS (Center of References of STD and AIDS) in San Juan Health Center and the San Juan Laboratory, Iquitos.
PROCITS (Prevention and Care of Infectious Diseases and AIDS) at the Hospital of Iquitos. The office helps take care of our HIV-positive patients and enters them into the free national antiretroviral treatment system.
Other Promotional Activities
¡Soy Capaz! participates at HIV-prevention health fairs, such as the Infectious Diseases Prevention Fair in Iquitos, and HIV-Prevention Day, a yearly event at the Rosa Augustina High School.
The Road Ahead
Amazon Promise continuously expands its HIV-prevention educational campaigns. New HIV-prevention educators are trained each year.
We have been extendeding our focus on the youth as the most vulnerable age group by holding workshops with their teachers and parents in order to generate a strong support base for the teenage population.
Strengthened collaboration with other Peruvian organizations such as Lazos de Vida also continues.
We continue offering free condoms and HIV testing because there are no other resources available, especially in the river communities.
Our Patient Care Program grows each year as we help our patients from the Amazon delta with treatment referrals, accommodation, living expenses, and medical care.
The Amazon region of Peru is extremely vulnerable to the outbreak of an HIV/AIDS epidemic. Without more help, it is only a matter of time before the communities there suffer decimation similar to that in Africa and Asia. However, with adequate comprehensive HIV education and care, this pandemic may be stopped before it really takes hold.
Your support of ¡Soy Capaz! will help our efforts to ameliorate this threatening situation.