Since 2010, PPGNW has provided support to the Módulo Anexo Materno Infantil (MAMI or Maternal-Infant Health Annex) in the province of La Romana, Dominican Republic, enabling that organization to significantly increase the number of adolescents they reach with comprehensive sexuality education. MAMI is a partnership between Hospital Francisco Gonzalvo, a large provincial public hospital and Clínica de Familia La Romana, a local non-profit HIV and primary care clinic. In addition to the sexuality education that PPGNW’s grant supports, MAMI offers high-quality, teen-friendly services to the poorest youth in the province of La Romana.
During the 22 months of the PPGNW-supported project (November 2010 to September 2012), MAMI reached 6,986 youth in 1029 classroom sessions at public middle and high schools in the city of La Romana, two nearby municipalities and six rural bateyes, or communities of sugar cane workers. In comparison, in the year prior to the project, MAMI only reached 1388 youth in 53 classroom sessions, for an increase of 403% in the number of youth reached. MAMI also hired a second community educator and initiated the first-ever sexuality education in the batey schools; residents of these communities are primarily of Haitian descent, face discrimination by Dominican society, and have the poorest health outcomes in the province.
The sex education program, which includes participatory sessions on the reproductive system, family planning, sexually transmitted infections, HIV and discrimination, and adolescent pregnancy, creates an open dialogue for students to share concerns, questions, and opinions in a non-judgemental and safe environment. During the session on HIV, several students have been able to openly talk about how they have supported family members living with HIV, helping reduce the stigma associated with HIV in the Dominican Republic.
Three peer education groups have also been formed with funds from the PPGNW grant, including one in a batey. Peer educators, who have received training adapted from a Peace-Corps-designed methodology called “I Choose My Life,” help facilitate school and community education sessions. Together, all of the education sessions have improved reproductive health knowledge among youth in the project communities.
Participation in the peer education program has been an empowering experience for many of the peer educators, helping them make healthy decisions in their own lives and develop leadership and public speaking skills. It has also facilitated more open discussions about sexuality with peers and family members. The mother of one of the peer educators in La Romana described the change in her daughter:
I feel very happy to see [her] maturing and becoming less shy. She now talks with me openly about topics related to sexuality, something she never would have done before. (Mother of peer educator)
One graduate of the first group of peer educators, Alex, was elected president of the group by his peers. He has helped to train new groups of peer educators and also co-facilitated a session for 50 Clínica de Familia staff on how to talk to adolescents about sexuality.
MAMI’s service data suggest that the sexuality education supported by PPGNW (in combination with increasing the hours during which services are available) has had a positive impact on care-seeking behaviors among adolescents. During the 22 months of the project, the number of new FP clients each month increased by an incredible 315% (from 33 new clients/month in the year prior to the project to 137 new clients/month during the project); MAMI hired another FP nurse and now has two work spaces for FP services. In the same time period, there was a 21% increase (from 107/month in the year prior to the project to 130/month) in HIV testing at the clinic.