A little hope in a brown paper bag
By William Moore
MARMONT, Haiti—As a Masters in Public Health (MPH) student at Morehouse School of Medicine with a focus on health education and health promotion, it was important to me to gain experience with educational preventive behavior in a developing world.
Today I only had one opportunity for sex education. One of the very first patients, a young man, received a goodie bag filled with a toothbrush, soap, toothpaste, and two condoms. As part of my role here, I explained in detail regarding all the items in the little brown bag. My one-man audience paled in comparison to my first day of clinic.
That day an audience of 30 men laughed at me as I attempted to communicate to them about condoms in their native tongue. I didn’t have a penis model present with me so my instincts as a professional community health educator kicked in.
I had to improvise.
I used my first and middle finger as the penis, and demonstrated how to properly roll a condom down. I told my audience in Creole that it was important to use the condom only once to prevent broule (burning) or poo pase mekrobs (not pass germs or bacteria). After a while I began to notice my audience getting bigger, many of them young men smiling and asking for more capotes (condoms). Some of them were not a part of the initial education I began so instead of giving them the condoms without the proper education, I told them to listen to condom instructions first before they received one.
It was an empowering moment. By being able to bring what I have done for so many years in the States to a developing country, I was able to give them access to information and tools that at any other time they may not receive. Along with that I was able to specifically emphasize to the men the importance of seeking health care and giving them information about male reproductive health.
As I watched the men leave the clinic today with their brown paper bags in hand, I felt hopeful that these men would have the tools to practice safe sex. A hope that the lesson they had learned would help reduce their exposure to HIV/AIDS by not only protecting themselves but protecting their partners too.
William Moore is a second year MPH student at Morehouse School of Medicine. His focus is on men’s health and has worked with Planned Parenthood of Georgia as a community health educator and program coordinator.