Tag Archives: HIV prevention

Au Revoir

Last week I learned that a close friend in my village received a notice of transfer. In the Botswana government system employees sign short contracts, generally 3-5 years long. Transfers come suddenly and the person leaves quickly afterward.

This person was a doctor at the hospital in my village. We worked together closely for the past few months on circumcision projects. It’s common for volunteers to have a variety of counterparts for different activities – this doctor was one of the best counterparts I have had throughout my service. He is passionate and hardworking, which are not the most common qualities even in the developed world. I’ve written a lot about my involvement with circumcision here, and none of the success I’ve had would have been even remotely possible without his help. Although he will still be in Botswana I am going to miss having him here, both as a counterpart and a friend.

The news of this departure came during the visit from my shadowing trainee. Halfway through pre-service training, Peace Corps trainees in Botswana travel to visit a current volunteer. I enjoy hosting shadows because it offers a chance to pass on some of the wisdom I’ve gained since arriving, plus it’s an interesting gauge of how far I’ve come. The trainee I hosted was an older gentleman; it made for an odd dynamic to be a sort of teacher to someone with so much more life experience than myself. But we have a lot in common and consequently had some really thoughtful conversations. I always like having visitors, and they get the rural village experience in Rakops.

Having this Peace Corps neophyte in my midst showed me the unique place I’ve reached in my service and some of the challenges to which I have adapted. The reality is that I’m on the downward slope of my 2 years. It’s an accomplishment to be sure, but also indicates a change in attitude toward my organization. Most important is the need to instill some sustainability and wean the NGO off of my help. And of course, that means saying more good-byes. Will we either of us be ready? This won’t be quite as abrupt as my doctor friend’s departure, so I can hope.

Cheers

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Satisfaction

I was a little down in my last post. It’s part of life here, even though it’s not my preference to share low vibes. The capricious and fragile state of my mood is inherent with this experience – read any Peace Corps blog for proof. It’s often difficult to pinpoint the dominant emotion since so many thoughts and stressors are at play, though it’s clear to me that I was in a quarter-century funk last week.

That said, thank you for the birthday wishes from across the world. It was a low-key celebration kind of year, but I’m fortunate to have great friends in Bots who joined me. Next year I’ll be in a totally different place and can have a developed-world celebration.

In terms of work, I had a good last week. A high-volume safe male circumcision team from ACHAP visited Rakops and my region. A couple doctors, a few nurses, and some community mobilizing members all contributed to get more than 120 males circumcised in the week. It represents a huge spike in prevention interventions performed in my district. I feel satisfied with the help I offered them, which came in the form of extra hands in the surgery room and recruiting and mobilizing men to get circumcised. Since Peace Corps Volunteers are intimately aware of their communities’ needs, they often offer the best knowledge to visitors. I think I filled that role well.

More importantly, circumcision displays a real intervention being put into place, which makes me more satisfied than anything else. Our prerogative in this role is to alter behavior as a method of prevention. It’s hard work to get someone to change his or her actions, despite the number of times you recite the ways to protect yourself from infection. What’s more frustrating for me is the invisibility of it all. There is virtually no way to track the number of times a person does or does not use a condom during sex or the amount of sexual partners a person has. Circumcision is real and after a 20-minute operation and 6 weeks of recovery a man is drastically less prone to infection. This is my soapbox, and will be until I leave Botswana. It should be implemented in endemic countries until a cure is found.

To shift my tone, I’m planning to travel a bit in the next couple weeks and possibly entertain another visitor! I’m looking forward to it since I’m now acutely aware of how little time I have left to see all I want to see in this part of the world. I’ll share more later – have a great weekend!

Cheers

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