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.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

An Update on HIV in the Peace Corps

I recently acquired the most recent Health of the Volunteer Report (2010), and have thus updated the information provided here about HIV in the Peace Corps. I have also added some information about PEP use in the Peace Corps.

Peace Corps Volunteers Testing Positive for HIV

Between 1989 and 2010, 43 Peace Corps Volunteers have tested positive for HIV (plus me= 44). According to the below Peace Corps Health Report, 0-4 volunteers contracted HIV each year.

Here is a breakdown of PCVs testing positive for HIV by country, along with the years of occurrence. (This table only shows information from the 2006-2010 health reports. The earlier reports do not specify the countries in which volunteers contracted HIV, though I may try to find out this information.)

Country
# of PCV’s Contracting HIV
Years
Zambia
3
2011, 2008, 2007
Mozambique
2
2010, 2010
Thailand
1
2010
Paraguay
1
2010
Moldova
1
2009
Ukraine
1
2008
The Gambia
1
2008
Namibia
1
2006


Post Exposure Prophylaxis Use in the Peace Corps

Post Exposure Prophylaxis has been available in the Peace Corps since 1997. However, data on PEP use was first collected in 2006.

Here is a breakdown of PEP use by country and year, between 2006 and 2010.



Country
 2010
2009
2008
2007
2006
Armenia
1




Azerbaijan
1
1
2
1

Belize
1


1
1
Benin
6
1
2
4
2
Bolivia


1

7
Botswana
2
1
3
3
3
Bulgaria
1



1
Burkina Faso
7
6
4
5
2
Cambodia


1
1

Cameroon
3
1
2
2
5
Cape Verde
1
3
1
4
4
China
2

1
1

Costa Rica


1


Dominican Republic
1

2

4
Eastern Caribbean
1
5
6
1
1
Ecuador
1

1

1
El Salvador

3
1
1

Ethiopia
2
2
4


Fiji




1
Georgia



1

Ghana
2
3
1
2
3
Guatemala
5
1
3
1
3
Guinea

2
3

4
Guyana

1


2
Honduras
1

3

2
Jamaica

3

1
1
Kazakhstan




1
Kenya
1
3

6
2
Kiribati



1

Kyrgyz Republic
2
1

2
1
Lesotho
5
8
6
2
4
Liberia
2




Macedonia


3
3

Madagascar
2

3
12
6
Malawi
4
6
8
2
6
Mali
1
2
2
4
1
Mauritania


1

1
Micronesia



1

Moldova



2
1
Mongolia


1
3

Morocco
1
1
5
5
9
Mozambique
11
4
8
17
7
Namibia
3
2
6
3
9
Nicaragua
2
3
1
2
3
Niger


1
4
3
Panama

3
1


Paraguay
3
1



Peru
2


3
1
Rwanda
5
3



Samoa



1

Senegal
1
2
2
1
2
Sierra Leone
1




South Africa
1

2
2
3
Swaziland

1
3
3
1
Tanzania
3
3
1
1
1
Thailand
1

1


The Gambia
7


1
2
Turkmenistan


1


Togo
2
4
4
4
4
Uganda
6
2
4
2

Ukraine
3
4
2
2
5
Vanuatu




1
Zambia
3
2
7
9
7



5 comments:

  1. I'm interested that they release data in this way. Of all the cases I know of PCVs testing positive in country, they all went home, cutting their service short. So by seeing how many people tested positive from a given country in a given year, it could be possible to figure out (although not know for certain) who tested positive, thereby eliminating the people's privacy. Do you think this is a concern at all?

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  2. I totally understand what you are saying and your concerns about it, and I'll admit that I was also a bit surprised when I first realized that they release this information. But, thinking about it more, I am not too concerned, as they release the same information about any other illnesses contracted. So, one could also argue that someone could sit there and through the process of elimination try to figure out which volunteer left their country because they got pregnant, contracted Hepatitis, got a STD, or any other number of things.

    Also, I think that in most situations, it would probably be difficult to actually figure it out as you are suggesting. Let's take 2008 as an example... from the Health Report we can know that 23 Volunteers were medically evacuated from Zambia, and 1 Volunteer contracted HIV. 10 evacuated from The Gambia, 1 with HIV. 13 evacuated from Ukraine, 1 with HIV. In Zambia for sure, with such a large number of evacuees it would be difficult to pinpoint which one had HIV. For The Gambia and Ukraine, it might be a little bit easier, but still a challenge.

    Anyways, for whatever reason, Peace Corps has decided that they can release this information to the public, and that it isn't some kind of breach of medical confidentiality. My main interest in looking at and further posting this information, was really to try to see if there were any seeming trends or countries with higher rates of volunteer contraction. For example, I had already previously known that another volunteer besides myself had contracted in Zambia in 2008 (her story is also public). However, it was new news to me that even ANOTHER volunteer had contracted in Zambia in 2007! And I do find this fact of 3 instances in Zambia within 5 years to be interesting and honestly a little disturbing. Of course, there is no way to know whether this information really MEANS anything, it is most likely a random coincidence. However, my thinking is that maybe a future volunteer heading to Zambia might just see this information and say to themselves "Wow. This has happened 3 times already? I better be EXTRA careful when I'm over there!"... and you never know, this thought process might just save a life...

    I don't know... Big Picture I guess is that yes, I see and understand that there can be some concern about this information being published. However, I would just hope that people would be moral enough to use this information solely for helpful purposes, and not abuse it by sitting there and trying to pinpoint and figure out just exactly who it was that got HIV.

    Thanks for your thoughts :-)

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  3. There seems to be growing consensus that we can decrease the AIDS pandemic by implementing HIV prevention strategies such as male circumcision, preventative medication. There are many concerns that the pill that could increase risky behaviors and lead to a drug-resistant strains of HIV.

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  4. Love the blog, Jessica! Thank you for being so honest and open about living with HIV.

    I am an RPCV from another high prevalence African country and wanted to comment on the PEP stats. I know of quite a few volunteers who went on PEP after coming in contact with blood after being attacked or helping a HCN who had an accident and not because they had unprotected sex or experienced a condom break.

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    1. Infectious Disease and HIV specialists bringing to Orlando innovative care in the treatment of viral infections, including Chronic Viral Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, Herpes and HIV, HIV.

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