Today we visited Pasa Nuevo, a small fishing village with unpaved roads on the Caribbean coast, to see the Profamilia mobile brigade in action. We traveled down a dirt road for several miles to access the village, which has maybe 1,000 inhabitants. The Profamilia social workers had visited houses in the surrounding area for the previous two weeks to let the inhabitants know that they would be in town. Women traveled to see us from a two hour radius. Profamilia visits Pasa Nuevo every six months, this being the limit of the birth control pills and injections. (they leave behind enough supplies for six months).
Profamilia had the use of the village school for the day. The school had no running water but was neat and clean. Exam rooms were set up in empty classrooms with cardboard taped over the windows for privacy. A changing room was fabricated with a sheet taped to the walls in a corner of the room. A Profamilia medical team of a doctor, nurse, nurses aides, social workers and a psychologist went into action.
There were two separate activities happening. The first was the adults, who were sitting under a broad tree getting instruction on breast self examination and sexually transmitted disease. A few had infants on their laps but there were no children running around waiting for a pediatric care, they were taken care of at another facility. Those who thought they had symptoms got immediate attention. There were separate exam rooms for birth control, where the women got IUDs or implants or the Pill or an injection, and another room for STD exams.
Meanwhile the teens of the school, the girls resplendent in their plaid Uniforms and the boys in white shirts and jeans, gathered in classrooms playing sexual health quiz games under the supervision of Profamilia peer educators. The kids ranged from 15 to 20 in age. There were variations of the Concentration game with questions on sexual health. The kids were divided into four teams for each event, with wonderful names like the Crocodiles, the Divine Ones, and the Pirates. There was great good-natured competition among them. When one team got a wrong answer, a boy and girl from the team had to dance the salsa in front of the class. I told them that I considered it a reward! Lots of hilarity. I was not invited to dance. Another punishment was to have the entire team stand with their backs to the class and shake their rear ends – Planned Parenthood does the hokey-pokey!
The educator had a unique way of getting the teens to pay attention. She had a code word for each team, like “restaurant”, or “cornbread” and each time she used the word the team would have to stand up at attention. It was Planned Parenthood meets the Marines!
In another exercise, one of the girls explained how to do a breast self-examination. There was rapt attention and no snickering. These are very self-possessed teens. In another class the kids had to put a condom on a wooden penis, again with no snickering from the peanut gallery.
the age of sexual initiation in this village is 12. There is a very high rate of teen pregnancy, but many of these teens now have contraceptive implants. We did not meet a single sullen, disaffected youth, here or in our other visits. They are friendly and not self conscious. They are way ahead of US teens in sexual health knowledge.
The Mayor the the town appeared and, like politicians everywhere, made a speech to the adult voters and then gave a pep talk to the kids about family planning. He hopes to expand this program to other parts of his district.