Tuesday, March 9, 2010



During the first 2010 Amazon Promise expedition, we have visited these villages on the Yarapa and Ucayali rivers:

Puerto Miquel, Nuevo Loreto, Jaldar, Jerusalem, Libertad, Vista Alegre, Castilla, Puerto Sol, and 28 de Junio

With the exception of the the last two places, these villages are among the first to collaborate with us on the HIV-prevention program that started there nearly five years ago. We have thus numerous acquaintances, friends and promoters who help carry out the program.

Donas Gloria and Leonila, midwives and our long-time HIV-prevention promoters

What we strive to achieve in every village: sensitize the population to HIV/AIDS, provide a supply of free condoms and educational materials, and establish HIV-prevention counselors who work as the community advisers, providing confidential support on HIV-prevention.

The objective for this expedition was twofold:

1. To pilot interactive HIV-prevention workshops as revision for the population that has been largely sensitized to HIV-related topics since 2006.
2. To offer training in HIV-prevention and care to interested local volunteers.

1. Some of the interactive parts of the public workshop generate answers to questions about the connection between gender-motivated irresponsible behaviour, abuse and violence, and the danger of HIV-infection with special focus on women who are in heightened danger of HIV-infection because the male-dominant societal codes of the area often reward infidelity and multiple partnership. Moreover, we place emphasis on teaching the mechanisms of a safe relationship negotiating. For this reason, we have re-established our acted-out theatrical sketches in which a male and a female volunteer demonstrate how to reach a mutual agreement to use a condom. We have consequently handed out over
3 000 free condoms
in the area.

Here are some photographs from the public workshops in which we utilize a series of interactive games on board in order to elicit answers from the public about HIV and its prevention:
Bronia, one of our helpers in the river Yarapa village of Jaldar

Public workshop in the Ucayali river village of Vista Alegre

We have also handed out free educational materials, such as folders with basic HIV facts and prevention strategies for the area, posters, t-shirts and a DVD produced by Amazon Promise with Lazos de Vida containing a lecture on STIs and HIV, testimonies of Peruvians living with HIV, and a correct use of a condom demonstration. In nearly every village there are DVD players now, powered by generators, and so our DVD serves for the continuation of the HIV-prevention efforts conducted by our local HIV promoters in our absence.
2. We have designed a 5-hour workshop for HIV-PREVENTION PROMOTERS, containing the basics of HIV-prevention in the area. Two such workshops were held in the villages of Puerto Miquel and Libertad respectively. 12 local volunteers took part at the training. If they pass their final examination test the next time we are in the area, they will be certified to continue our work in the villages in our absence.
Here are some photographs from our workshop in the community of Libertad. Pedro Angel Peña Manihuari, the local promoter who has worked with Amazon Promise for 8 years, helped conduct parts of the training:

The HIV-promoter trainings were also accompanied by discussions about the best manners in which to establish women support groups for women whose partners do not respect their sexual and reproductive rights, and whose family situation may be considered abusive. We have been successful to address some already established women groups who collaborate on the artisan-product making, the leaders of which are also our HIV-promoters. Together, we discussed the interaction between the women artesania groups with women elders, male promoters, and with local authorities. We have thus again advanced towards our goal to establish safe spaces in each village where abused women may find support and legal intervention if necessary. We are emphasizing the link between disrespect, alcohol and spousal abuse and the risks of HIV-infection since--according to our and other research--there is strong evidence that corroborates such a connection in the geographic areas where we operate.
As always, it is our ultimate goal to uphold wholesome families with protected women and happy children:

besides the Promoter Training that takes place on the "free days", HIV-prevention happens alongside the Amazon Promise clinics. A team of students from Michigan University and two other doctors from Michigan formed the core of this expeditions' medical team. Thank you for your incredibly hard work! Here are some photographs from Puerto Sol and Vista Alegre:

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


We would like to thank our sponsors, B. Erny, Robert James Frascino AIDS Foundation, D. Holloway, T. Shultz, M. Deem, S. Deem and many others, art buyers, and the marvelous artists for their incredible support they provided our program this year. Special thanks to Barb Erny for her intrinsic aid that enabled us to continue our HIV education on the Pastaza River. Please, read our blog below to learn about this year's achievements, and our goals for next year.
We love you all!!!
And, don't forget: the children are our future, whether they are ours or not. We are doing this so that they may live happy lives in wholesome families!

PASTAZA 2010: Let us help again

The situation on the faraway river Pastaza is alarming. There is substantial traffic between the town of Andoas—where we discovered two HIV cases—and the river villages whose inhabitants are uninformed of the dangers of HIV infection, and unable to protect themselves. Amazon Promise and ¡Soy Capaz! are ready to continue fighting the threat of an HIV epidemic, but because of the remoteness of the region and the logistical efforts required to reach it, we cannot do so without substantial support from you. Please, help us return to Pastaza and continue working hard to stop the epidemic that might erase many villages from the map.
To make a donation in support of our next year's expeditions, please visit:


In the distant region on the Pastaza river,we visited the Quechua, Achuar and Mestizo villages of
Andoas, Wararai, Soplin, Sabaloyacu, Huangramona, Jardines and Nuevo Porvenir.
No other NGO travels to this region

Monday, December 7, 2009

PASTAZA November 09: what we did

In response to the alarming situation in the Pastaza region, we conducted our ¡Soy Capaz! campaign of HIV-prevention alongside Amazon Promise' regular clinics.

>>>We reached over 1000 people with our public lectures and educational HIV workshops. Our lectures and private sessions were interpreted from Spanish to Quechua and Achuar in places where such services were needed.Upon demand, we handed out 2 700 free condoms and administered HIV tests upon request. More that 200 individuals were counseled on HIV, STIs and family planning.<<<

Insufficient –or plainly nonexistent—awareness of the dangers of the HIV and other ST infections in the Achuar, Quechua and the mixed Meztizo communities lays the ground for an HIV epidemic outbreak on the river Pastaza. In no place we have visited is there a reliable source of HIV-prevention education, and no condoms are available in the region (with the exception of Andoas where a purchase is possible at high cost). We have informed the Regional Ministry of Health of the situation.

In addition, we also visited the Secondary School in Andoas where we continued our workshop we had begun the year before. Our new video produced by AP and Lazos de Vida generated a discusssion of such topics as self-respect and responsible sexual behavior. In the school, we also continued orientating the teachers and extended our collaboration on HIV-prevention exercises. The teachers received from us a concise guide for an STI-prevention workshop to be conducted in our absence.
Exilda, our indispensable boat driver and Quechua interpreter.

After Andoas, our first place to visit was the village of Warari; a place beloved by AP for its people: a very traditional Achuar family who has been inviting and friendly to us since the very first expedition in the 1990's. One of the sons, Puanch, has been traveling with us for the last two years, getting trained as a Medical and HIV Promoter. His village is in the midst of the jungle up the Tunigrama creek where trees whisper, and fireflies flicker at night. After clinic, we were offered not only masato, the fermented yucca drink the Achuar women chew up and spit into buckets, but also the beautiful Achuar masato vessels to keep. It took us the whole day to go up river and back. As we were returing, a storm overtook us on the Pastaza river. Everything suddenly turned into water, including our breath. Soaked and freezing, we finally moored back in Andoas. It was worth every penny.

Patient Stories

Juan: A Patient’s Story

During an Amazon Promise clinic in the village of Jerusalen, we met a desperate, emaciated man who was holding the hand of a four-year-old boy with cutely unkempt hair. Having been sick for some time, Juan had come to the village from Iquitos in the hopes of finding some healing in traditional jungle medicine. He was a very humble man who never looked into anyone’s eyes. His son was the shyest of kids. There was tenderness between them. The AP clinic doctors could not find the source of Juan’s fatigue, but suspected that he was in the end stages of HIV/AIDS infection. We offered to help him get back to Iquitos for HIV testing.

In Iquitos, Juan tested HIV positive and broke down. We counseled him about the free antiretroviral treatment he could receive from one of the hospitals. Still, he was convinced that an HIV diagnosis meant certain death. Juan then revealed he had a wife and another child. In fact, he was not afraid to die, but he was petrified that they too might be infected. At the San Juan Health Center in Iquitos, Juan’s wife and their children tested negative, while Juan’s tests confirmed his HIV infection. Again Juan cried, but this time with relief. Nevertheless, his joy was short-lived: he now perceived himself a burden to his family, and craved death. At that point, he could hardly walk. Together with his wife, we counseled him and finally convinced him to start treatment. His wife was very strong, forgiving and caring. They decided to make it together.

Juan entered the free antiretroviral treatment program at the Hospital Regional. Because he was too ill to work, his wife took on an extra shift at her job to make ends meet.

A year later, while we were visiting the same village, an elderly woman spoke without stopping about how fat her son Juan was getting. Then one day Juan rang the bell at the Amazon Promise house in Iquitos. He walked in with muscled arms and a protruding belly, holding his youngest child in his arms and the boy with unkempt hair by the hand. Juan has a full-time job now. He looks people straight in the eye, and talks with great concern about the growing number of HIV patients he sees in the hospital where he receives his treatment. At the moment, he is training to become a volunteer HIV-prevention counselor. Welcome back to the world, Juan.

(The patient’s name has been changed for the sake of confidentiality)


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