Thursday, December 11, 2008

AIDS awareness bike race:

This is a program that is on it’s third year in Madagascar. Each previous year it has been a huge success, but it was also largely funded by individual volunteers in Tamatave. The volunteer this year rightly expressed the opinion that ‘if it isn’t run and supported by the people here, it is time for it to die’. PC is about sustainable development after all.
That said, Dalene worked tirelessly to make it happen and it went really well this year, entirely funded outside of PC. Dalene worked with the planning committee and many of us other volunteers provided help on the days of the race.
Before the race there were teams of PCVs and Malagasy doing ‘sensitizations’, having demos and making speeches about AIDS prevention and general awareness. There were random AIDS tests and free condoms for everyone. All in all, it was a huge success.
This was a foot race, a bike race and a pousse-pousse (rickshaw) race. They were supposed to be 3km, 25km, and 5km respectively. They were in fact much longer: 8km, 67km and 12km. Those of you with any running experience will know how much this will affect the competitors. If you set a 3km pace, then try to keep it up for almost 3 times that distance, you will most likely collapse. That was the case for many. I was near the finish line directing the racers to get their prizes and most of them couldn’t walk on their own. Red Cross was there with stretchers and water and many of the local people helping out ended up just carrying their compatriots to the prize booth.
I would like to restate that the operation was a huge success. This country has an incredibly low AIDS rate, especially considering it’s proximity to South Africa, and the random tests can confirm or deny that. It could be that there is just no good data. The info about prevention may not be received well, or practiced, but at least it is out there and that is all we can do.
It is important to know that there is a large mining company here now with many of it’s workers coming from South Africa. Without getting into the overall effects of this (which would be a huge project) I will just point out that this could be an in-road for AIDS if people are not careful. The rate could jump, and fast. It is heartening to see the Malagasy people taking it upon themselves to work for this cause, not just NGOs and PC.
October 2, 2008

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