I had a talk yesterday with a fellow volunteer in Zambia. I sat on the couch crying as we were talking. He told me that after he found out about what happened to me, he marched into Peace Corps Zambia and told them "something needs to change here". He has since been working with them to revamp and redesign the HIV Trainings that Zambia volunteers receive. One of the changes they have made is making it more relative to volunteers, by having current volunteers share their own personal stories of risk and relationships. This includes talking about things like taking PEP (Post Exposure Prophylaxis). He told me that there has been a huge influx in the number of volunteers coming in and requesting PEP in the past few months, volunteers are treating it like "the morning after pill".
I feel a bit conflicted about this supposed influx of PEP use. On one hand, it is good that people know about it and are able to request it in order to keep themselves safe. On the other hand, if there is in fact an increase in PEP requests, does that perhaps lead one to question the underlying reasons and factors... if more people are requesting PEP, does that mean more people are participating in risky behaviors? And if so, shouldn't the Peace Corps (and other organizations) question themselves on whether they are doing an adequate job of educating and preventing the risky behaviors to begin with? Yes, PEP saves lives, but shouldn't we make every attempt to mitigate the risks as much as possible before needing to take PEP?
Although a bit outdated, this is what the 2008 Volunteer Health Report says about PEP:
I have also added a new poll question for everyone, regarding other STIs or STDs. It is important to realize that all of these should be talked about too, not just HIV. Just for some extra information, here is what the 2008 Volunteer Health Report has on STDs:
* Viral = Difficult to treat. Must use antivirals, not antibiotics, to treat. Some vaccines have been developed to prevent some viruses. Some viruses may be impossible to cure.
I am 28. White. A Female. And a former Peace Corps Volunteer. I am HIV Positive. This is my story of how a few months, a few people, and a few events in Zambia changed me and my life forever. This is the story of how I contracted HIV and brought my Peace Corps Journey to a crashing halt... and how I am working now to pick up and put back together the pieces of my life as a newly diagnosed person living with HIV. This was not the journey I had originally planned... my path has traumatically and dramatically changed... but it is the one I am on now. There is no going back. There is only forward. I welcome you to follow along with me as I attempt to explore this new life ahead of me, whether you are someone from the Peace Corps community, or someone living with HIV. I welcome your comments, questions, suggestions, and opinions. Let us go forward together. To start from the beginning, click here He Gave Me More Than A Bracelet.