PEPFAR training and headaches
Every day this week, I have had a headache. Not just the kind of headache that is a bit of an irritant, but the kind of headache that causes you to be distracted from what is going on around you. This is not especially good, because all this week, I have been at PEPFAR training.
For those of you who do not know, PEPFAR is the President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief. Here is the official description from the PEPFAR website:
“PEPFAR is the U.S. Government initiative to help save the lives of those suffering from HIV/AIDS around the world. This historic commitment is the largest by any nation to combat a single disease internationally, and PEPFAR investments also help alleviate suffering from other diseases across the global health spectrum. PEPFAR is driven by a shared responsibility among donor and partner nations and others to make smart investments to save lives.”
So what does that mean for Ukraine, and why am I in a training related to it? Well, because AIDS is a global epidemic, and Peace Corps is a global organization, we as Peace Corps volunteers are encouraged to conduct a program related to AIDS prevention in our communities. More specifically, a project that will promote moving from emergency response to promoting sustainable country programs. Peace Corps is an implementing agency for PEPFAR projects, so here we are.
It is especially important that we do projects in Ukraine, which has the highest rate of HIV infections in Europe. According to UNAIDS, Ukraine has a reported rate of 1.3 percent among people 15 years and older. To people who think “what, is that all?” if a disease reaches one percent of the population, it is considered an epidemic. To a country like Ukraine, this disease is devastating, and is spreading rapidly. There are some unique challenges we face when planning and conducting a program about AIDS. But if life and work here was easy, well, it would not be Peace Corps, would it?
It has been a long and intense week of training. Every night I make it to my room and intend to write something in my blog, and have simply not had the energy or any ideas for things to write. During the day I have had headaches. Why have I had these headaches? Surely it is not because it is a training, because I have never experienced headaches in this kind of situation before. I don’t see that it can be from the food or the water. I don’t drink coffee. Maybe it’s the location. Maybe it is any number of things. The headaches are a mystery, but they are getting old, to be honest.
But the training was good – I am glad we came because although most of the information that they covered here was not new to me, it was to the woman who came with me. It also helped her learn more about HIV and AIDS, and got her enthusiastic to do a project that will not only impact a non-traditional (as well as traditional) audience, but to also ensure that we put things into place to make activities and aspects of the project sustainable.
Thus the reason for my silence this week. It is broken today but may return for the weekend, if the plans I am trying to make work out.