May 20, 2009

AIDS Awareness Event

Over the weekend my sitemates Jill and Amy arranged an AIDS Awareness Day in Quba. They arranged for children from our local equivalent of juvenile hall, some local students and other interested community members to come, listen to a presentation and participate in a Q&A session with a health expert from Baku.
In Azerbaijan presentations & speechs tend to be dull affairs where a speaker gets up, reads a prepared statement in a monotone voice & makes no attempt to engage the audience while the crowd sits and quietly talks amongst themselves. This presentation was no different. It was rather dry and boring for my taste and some of the adults who sat in the back talked amongst themselves. But the kids were surprisingly well behaved, listened and really seemed to learn something. As is usually the case nobody wanted to speak up for the Q&A session but Jill, who understands Azerbaijani fairly well, came with a list of questions she wanted answered for the kids.

Ive spoken to a few men here who frequent prostitutes and they all laugh when I tell them that in America it is standard procedure to wear a condom for preventing deseise and pregnancy. They tell me that its an affront to their manhood and that to prevent deseise all you need to do is urinate right away afterwards....makes me wonder if they think that works for the prostitutes(and their wives) also. I wanted to ask the expert if this was true(obviously I know its not but I wanted the little juvi-kids to know) but sadly my Azerbaijani isn't good enough to ask this diplomatically.

After the presentation & Q&A we all walked down to the park for a candlelight memorial & moment of silence.

Some of the kids.

All in all it was a good day. Oficially there are only 3 cases of AIDS/HIV in Quba but the testing rate is abysmal. And the level of AIDS awareness in this country is unfortunatly low especially considering the high rates of needle use(both for illeagal & leagal drugs), the inavailability of condoms and the frequency with wich I know some married men purchase sexual services. Hopefully the kids all learned something and maybe it'll save a couple lives.

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