Sunday, September 11, 2011

PEPFAR Conference About HIV/AIDS Awareness and Education

So I know its been a while since my last post, and I promised to upload photos from my travels with Annie... but things have been busy since school started. I had the opportunity to attend the PEPFAR conference with our school psychologist Irina Ivanovna about HIV/AIDS awareness and education. PEPFAR stands for President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and it is an international Peace Corps initiative.
With a few Ukrainian counterparts and Doug Teschner (our PC Country Director).

Ira and I in front of the banners :)
Ira and I with Andriy, the Peace Corps PEPFAR coordinator. 
 Last week, Irina and I joined about 25 Peace Corps Volunteers and their counterparts from their school or organizations in Kalamets-Podilsky for the conference. The sanatorium that we stayed at turned out to be a beautiful resort on a lake... western Ukraine is so green and pretty! We were lucky to have a few days of clear weather, we spent our coffee breaks outside enjoying the scenery and sunshine : )

Alex, Maria, Robin, Patrick and Kym.
Robin, Alex, me, Amanda and Abby.

Just stopping to smell the flowers.
Ira and I by the fountain.
with Abby and Amanda, the other counselors from Camp HEAL and OHALOW :)

No conference is complete without a jumping photo.
We spent a week learning about the biology of HIV/AIDS, methods of transmission, stages of infection, stigma and discrimination, and we also had a few very valuable language lessons on HIV/AIDS terminology in Russian. We also had a few guest speakers who came to tell us their stories as HIV positive individuals, one was an intravenous drug user (IDU) and one was a commercial sex worker. It was really interesting to hear about their firsthand experiences with living with HIV/AIDS in Ukraine and listen to their opinions about how Peace Corps Volunteers can work with our communities to help educate about HIV/AIDS.

PCVs learning about ways of transmission.
An joint session between PCVs and Ukrainian counterparts, working on a stigma/discrimination activity.
Learning about the different stages of HIV in a Russian language class.
I had a great time at the PEPFAR conference, and I think that Ira (my school psychologist) enjoyed it as well. It was great to meet other Ukrainian counterparts and talk to other volunteers about their different experiences working with organizations in their community. I am excited to start organizing a project at my own site, we are planning on doing a small presentation on  December 1st, HIV/AIDS Awareness Day!


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