Thursday, Jun. 11, 2015
At the beginning of 2008, I received a fellowship from the Research Group on Disparities in Health (RGDH) at Teachers College, Columbia University, working with Professor of Health Education and Director of RGDH, Dr. Barbara Wallace. The project, titled “Capacity Buildingfor Local and Global HIV/AIDS Prevention,” afforded me the opportunityto adapt, implement, and evaluate a four-week training to teach peopleto become peer educators in HIV prevention. I chose to implement theprogram in the village of Ketao, in the northern region of Togo,because my college roommate, Aimee De la Houssaye, is currently a PeaceCorp volunteer in that village. Aimee had recently helped to open anHIV clinic, and we saw peer education as an ideal next step to addressHIV/AIDS in her community.
I traveled to Ketao in July of 2008. During my first weeks in thevillage, I met with officials and potential trainers to establish thespace and recruitment process for the training. The training tookplace four days a week for five hours each day. I trained threetrainers and 43 village members to become peer educators for HIVprevention. The training was based on Dr. Barbara Wallace’s manual,“HIV/AIDS Peer Education Training Manual: Combining African HealingWisdom and Evidence-Based Strategies for Behavior Change” (2006,StarSpirit Press). The training included lessons encouragingteambuilding, strengthening social support, and empowering theparticipants to arrive at the desired stages of safety (i.e., stages ofchange, moving toward taking actions to stay safe from HIV/AIDStransmission). Thus, the training included lessons on HIV transmissionand prevention, cultural practices, seroconversion, HIV/AIDSmedications, universal precautions, and other culturally relevantinformation. The participants engaged in a range of activities,discussions, and created songs and sketches for imparting preventioninformation.
While there was a significant increase in knowledge from baseline,the greatest achievement of the 43 peer educators is the work that theywill continue to do in the community. Once the training ended, Aimeeand I were fortunate enough to receive a grant from the Peace Corps tocontinue this project. Since my return home to New York, Aimeereviewed proposals from the peer educators and chose to fund threeprojects: (1) an HIV club in the high school that will include watchingand discussing films, dancing, singing, and painting; (2) a series ofcommunity radio shows; and (3) the production of Moringa, a plant withhealth benefits for people living with HIV/AIDS, and also an incomegenerating activity. Many of these projects were formulated during thetraining.
To read the full length article on my experience and to see more photos, please visit the Global HELP website,