United Methodist Committee on Relief

HIV/AIDS Education in Remote Armenia Village

In October, UMCOR scheduled a training for pregnant women and women of child bearing age in Nerkin Bazmaberd village, that focused on mother-to-child HIV transmission issues. In October, UMCOR scheduled a training for pregnant women and women of child bearing age in Nerkin Bazmaberd village, that focused on mother-to-child HIV transmission issues.

By Narine Vardapetyan

December 3, 2013—Nerkin Bazmaberd is the most far-flung village of Aragatsotn Province in Armenia. It is an impoverished place, with a large temporary population of seasonal migrant workers. Even given these conditions, when staff of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) arrived recently at the local clinic to offer a workshop on HIV and AIDS, so many people came out for it, there weren’t enough seats to accommodate them all.

UMCOR had begun its “Prevention of HIV/AIDS, STIs and TB” project in Nerkin Bazmaberd in 2010, training a core group of community health volunteers (CHV). Given the remote location of the village and the lack of media access, the CHVs have provided a much-needed service in the promotion of health education.

Last October, an UMCOR trainer scheduled a workshop devoted to the program’s new component on issues related to mother-to-child HIV transmission. The workshop was designed particularly for pregnant women and women of reproductive age. A local midwife, as well as the CHVs, informed all of the pregnant women registered at the clinic about the training, and almost all of them expressed a willingness to participate.

When the UMCOR trainer got to the clinic, though, she found many more people than were expected. Almost all of pregnant women came with their husbands, who also had asked to participate. Even people who attended the clinic for other purposes showed interest in the training. As a result, the session had to be conducted in the largest available room. Even so, only some of the trainees fit inside; the rest stood near the entrance and listened from there. 

Everyone took an active part in the discussion and appeared comfortable asking a variety of questions about risk factors, signs of the illness, diagnosis, treatment, and other topics. At the end of the workshop, the trainer invited them to participate in voluntary counseling and HIV testing (VCT). These services, she told them, are provided by UMCOR’s Mobile Medical Team (MMT) free of charge; they are confidential and available to all. It turned out to be a busy day! MMT doctors and the trainer conducted about 40 voluntary counseling sessions and collected more than 30 blood samples!

Before they left, each of the pregnant women received a layette kit from UMCOR. It was a nice surprise, and the women said they would be happy to dress their newborn babies in the lovely clothes included with the kit.

Meanwhile, the women’s husbands were contented with the possibility to be tested confidentially. They told the UMCOR doctors that many of their friends would return from seasonal work the following month, and they promised to inform them about this opportunity. They said they would advise their friends to visit the MMT doctors when the team next visited the village and to participate in the VCT to ensure their health and safety. The MMT doctors promised to provide them with information materials and condoms.

Thus, the training, organized to address mother-to-child HIV transmission, also covered issues relevant to another vulnerable population, migrant workers. According to official statistics, about 62 percent of HIV-infected males in Armenia represent this risk group.

Because of Nerkin Bazmaberd’s remote location, the village has little access to information and quality medical services, particularly those related to reproductive health, sexual behavior, and the prevention of sexually transmitted illnesses. The UMCOR training and the ongoing work of the CHVs there will help residents to be better equipped to prevent, detect, and deal with HIV and AIDS.

Last Sunday, the world marked World AIDS Day. Keep up the fight and help prevent HIV and AIDS with your gift to United Methodist Global AIDS Fund, Advance #982345.

*Narine Vardapetyan is HIV/AIDS program manager for UMCOR’s Armenia country office.

If you support this project on Giving Tuesday, December 3, Global Ministries will allocate the “matching funds” dollar for dollar up to the first $500,000 in gifts to Advance projects received online on December 3, 2013, between 12:00 a.m. EST and 11:59 p.m. A maximum of $10,000 per individual gift to a project will be dispersed as matching funds. A project may receive a maximum of $50,000 in matching funds.

Last Sunday, the world marked World AIDS Day. Keep up the fight and help prevent HIV and AIDS with your gift to United Methodist Global AIDS Fund, Advance #982345

World Aids Day - Armenia from Global Ministries on Vimeo. HIV infection continues to be a major healthcare concern in Armenia, but UMCOR is working to prevent new cases of HIV through a project, "Prevention and Control of HIV/AIDS, Sexually Transmitted Infections and Tuberculosis."