Life in Its Fullness HIV and AIDS Project
September 18, 2004, —
"I am Laura. I am 22 and I am from Gualaceo. I have a 7-year-old son. Since April I have been attending the Gualaceo's Counseling Center every week and I have received support during my depression. Thanks to that support I am now able to tell you my story.
At the age of four a very close relative raped me. Since the age of 14 I have engaged in dangerous behaviors that could increase my chance of getting HIV and AIDS such as drinking, doing drugs and having casual sexual relations with other people. This was normal in my life and on many occasions my child has seen me use drugs.
Some friends insisted that I could get fatally infected and I decided to go to Gualaceo's center. I didn't have any faith in the center, as I didn't think they could help me, but with time I became involved and without realizing it the sessions became increasingly important to me.
I learned that drugs and unrestricted sexual relations could cause unplanned pregnancies and infect me with fatal diseases. Now I have accepted my problems of depression, alcoholism and drugs and I am receiving psychological treatment in the center — I am also receiving medicines provided by another institution. I was tested for AIDS, and fortunately the test results were negative.
I think that now I am more conscious about what I do with my free time, and I dedicate my time to my son. He also visits the center and receives help with his homework. I am still fighting depression and bad habits, but staff have explained that if I am patient and continue treatment, I will overcome this in time."
How Do We Do This Project and What Are Our Accomplishments to Date?
The "Life in its Fullness" project is implemented by the Guazhalán Foundation in the Cuenca Archdiocese. It targets vulnerable groups such as adolescents and women and works out of two centers.
The Youth Information Center in Gualaceo
This center helps adolescents: a) identify their risky behaviors and receive help changing them; b) receive information about health units where they can access complementary services; c) receive access to electronic information (i.e. the Internet); and, d) receive access to planning in coordination with other anonymous HIV testing centers.
The Anonymous Counseling and Serology Center in Cuenca
The Anonymous Counseling and Serology Center is the first of its kind in the country. It concentrates on a) prevention activities including workshops, interpersonal and group education and support groups; b) anonymous testing in coordination with the Azuay Provincial Health Office; and, c) emotional and psychological support for persons infected with HIV and their families, as well as the adoption and conservation of healthy life habits.
In 2002, 2,000 people benefited from this project.
Background of the Project
In 2001 the official number of people infected with HIV in Ecuador was 3,120; however, it is estimated that 20,000 people (or more) could be infected. The levels of infection in Ecuador can be managed with appropriate interventions and education.
Therefore, for 2002 CRS prioritized prevention, education, and attention initiatives to address AIDS in Ecuador and to avoid the "epidemic" levels that exist in other countries. HIV and AIDS projects are aimed at changing risky behaviors that influence transmission and also at avoiding discrimination against those infected with the virus.