Kelsey / Nica 63 / HE

SHORT STORIES FROM THE HIV TASK FORCE: As HIV TaskForcers, we are in a unique position because sometimes we are working alongside professionals in the field of HIV (doctors, nurses, educators), who sometimes know more, medically, than we do. Yet sometimes, we are teaching the basics to people who may believe that shaving and mosquitoes can transmit HIV. Here are our HIV work stories, where Nicaraguan and American culture meet and mingle in unexpected ways!

When I think of a sleep away summer camp for kids, I think of it as a staple of the middle class American childhood.  “Familias Creciendo Positivamente” is a 4-day camp for families affected by HIV.  This camp may be the only opportunity for these kids to have an experience that many Americans see as a “normal” childhood experience.

I have fond, childhood memories of campfire songs, stories, and laughter. So, like many of the other PCVs helping at the camp in 2015, one of the camp activities I was most looking forward to was bonding over camp fire and s’mores. However, when we started the bonfire, the Nicaraguans were not quite sure what to do, looking a bit confused as to why we were all just standing around a fire where they usually just burn their trash.   The S’mores went over about the same.  I have always taken pride in making a perfect golden marshmallow, but that has not been an intrinsic part of a Nicaraguan child’s life. I hope families are able to look back and have their own fond camp memories, even if their ‘mallow wasn’t golden.

-Mary McCoyHIV TaskForce3


As children we enjoyed playing Pin the Tail on the Donkey. With blindfolds on, dizzy heads, and a fake tail with a pin on its end, we unsteadily approached the donkey image, and were exhilarated to examine our attempt at earning a candy prize. Fast forward to present day, December 1st, 2015 to be exact, when this popularized American children’s game was introduced with a twist as a non-formal education technique for adults HIVTaskForce2at the Nueva Guinea World AIDS day fair. The twist consisted of pining the penis on the man…..and subsequently the condom! At first participants were penosos to compete, but once the first penis/condom combo were taped, the game was on! Winners earned not only candy but also a World Health Organization AIDS tote bag, and all participants and spectators learned of the importance to use protection.

-Caressa Kruth


I grew up watching my parents drink Green Mountain Coffee, and in college I started drinking the brew myself, never seriously considering where it comes from. Last winter, I was lucky enough to be involved in the Coffee Picker Project. Alongside local HIV experts, coffee farm owners and fellow volunteers, I traveled to two coffee farms in Matagalpa to help educate coffee pickers about why they are at higher risk for HIV, and what they can do to prevent HIV. 20-year-old Sondey participated as an educator in the project. Never having had worked in HIV, he quickly learned how to talk about this sometimes confusing and stigmatized topic. At the final farm we visited, Sondey got real with the coffee pickers: he declared that, as males, they have a responsibility to protect themselves and their partners, by using condoms. This led to a conversation about why condoms are uncomfortable and weird but not bad. It was one of those moments where you watch your counterpart “get it,” and try to share that feeling with others. It wasn’t so much a clash, but a blending of Nicaraguan and U.S. culture, as we sipped on coffee and learned just as much from the coffee pickers as they did from us. This experience has taught me to appreciate where my coffee (and everything else in my life) comes from.

-Kelsey GuziakHIVTaskForce5


Although Monica (pictured right) knew it was best to nourish her newborn child with breast milk, she was only vaguely reminded of the diseases it would prevent. Disease is a big word. It can mean diarrhea, a cold, dengue, the flu, etc. Most women from my Casa Materna never consciously think or realize they are HIV negative and therefore can, and should, breastfeed. Because powdered milk is a status symbol equated with wealth, HIVTaskForce1women prefer to use it when they can afford to buy it. Monica and most women are mostly aware HIV tests are performed during their pregnancy, but they don’t always understand the counseling behind it. That’s where I step in! During my visits to the Casa Materna, Monica learned through non-formal education activities what it means to be HIV negative, and that BREASTFEEDING RULES!

-Chelsea Canha


In the Casa Materna, the embarazadas love it when I show them new recipes for cakes and breads. For World Aids Day, I decided to do an HIV activity and teach them how to make torta de banano (banana bread). Part of the activity was condom demonstrations – each embarazada would correctly put the condom on the demonstration dildo and remove it as fast as she could, then we could all enjoy our freshly made torta de banano. During one such demonstration, there were several women from the campo who had never seen a condom before and had way too much pena to even touch the dildo or condom. However, after some gentle coaxing with the delicious torta de banano, nearly all the women completed the condom demonstration! Who knew that one of my favorite recipes to whip up from back home could help successfully teach about HIV and condom use?!

-Emily Abrahams

….and a special welcome to our newest members – Hailee, Jules, John, and Gray! Always feel free to reach out to any of us if you want support and/or want to be involved doing HIV related work! All sectors welcome!