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The Power of Educating About HIV/AIDS - Brenda Exania Onsang Castillo & Acción Médica Cristiana
By Alex Devoid
Brenda Exania Onsang Castillo just graduated from high school and dreams of being a doctor.  She is 18 years old and lives in Rosita, a town in the North Atlantic Autonomous Region (RAAN) of Nicaragua.  The RAAN is among the country’s most impoverished regions and has one of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS in the country.  

After participating for two yearsin a sexual and reproductive health project facilitated by Acción Médica Cristiana (AMC), Brenda affirms,  “I have changed my way of being, my way of acting, and my way of thinking.” AMC’s educational model is to train youth, church and community leaders who then replicate sexual and reproductive health knowledge within theircommunities.  The fundamental approach of the project is to develop healthy communication skills that allow people to empower each other with new knowledge. Brenda says, “AMC is the source of information and we are those who distribute it.”  When people have access to new information, they can take measures that assure their ideas, dreams and futures flourish.

In the RAAN AMC facilitates projects in five municipalities.  The sexual and reproductive health project is financially supported by, Austrian NGO, Horizonte3000in partnership with AMC.  The goal is to improve sexual and reproductive health knowledge and awareness.  AMC’s promoters are from the regions where they serve and build relationships with leaders of each community.  Since the project’s beginning two years ago, communities are more open to conversation about sexual health, which can lead to a drop in teenage pregnancies and HIV/AIDS. 

Brenda shares how she feels differently after working with AMC, “The most significant change has been communication.  In these workshops I have learned how to dialog, how to give my point of view without fear.  With AMC I feel free.  I feel like many people are listening to me.”  

Brenda has also learned much about sexual and reproductive health.  She says, “Before, I didn't know why it’s important to know the causes and consequences of HIV.”  She now knows what precautions to take against teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. 

Brenda hosts radio programs with AMC staff.  Theycover culturally sensitive, sexual and reproductive health topics.  She says,“We talk about relationships andsexually transmitted diseases.  They are very important topics that youth are living in reality.”  In her community, Brenda has seen a growth in confidence among youth leadership.  “If you ask them a question they answer.  If you ask them what HIV is, they respond.  They don't have as much fear as before because they are receiving help from other youth.  And that's how leaders advance in the community.”   

Brenda has become a teacher on the front line of sexual and reproductive health education imparting lifesaving information to youth some of whom hear it for the first time.  She communicates confidently sharing her knowledge, ideas, and dreams.  And Brenda empowers others to do the same. 

Alex Devoid was assigned to AMC as a Mission Intern of the United Methodist Church from August 2011 to January 2013. He spent several months in the RAAN interviewing and documenting stories to demonstrate the human impact of AMC's work. Link to more stories in left menu   Read Alex's missionary biography and his blog.