2006.04.17: April 17, 2006: Headlines: COS - Mozambique: HIV: AIDS: The Charlotte Observer: Peace Corps Volunteer Robert Moorehead fights HIV in Mozambique

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Library: Peace Corps: AIDS : The Peace Corps and AIDS: 2006.04.17: April 17, 2006: Headlines: COS - Mozambique: HIV: AIDS: The Charlotte Observer: Peace Corps Volunteer Robert Moorehead fights HIV in Mozambique

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Peace Corps Volunteer Robert Moorehead fights HIV in Mozambique

Peace Corps Volunteer Robert Moorehead fights HIV in Mozambique

"My ultimate goal is not to save everyone's lives," he said. "It's not something that's going to happen." But he and other volunteers thought they could teach a group of African teenagers about the dangers of HIV/AIDS and require them to share their knowledge with others in their hometowns.

Peace Corps Volunteer Robert Moorehead fights HIV in Mozambique

Albemarle volunteer fights HIV in Africa
Teaching safety can help in disease-ravaged Mozambique

Most people don't live past age 40 in Mozambique.

More than 500 new HIV infections are reported daily in the southern African country, and about 1.3 million people already have the disease.

UNC Chapel Hill graduate Robert Moorehead, 23, said he knew he had to accept the magnitude of this reality before joining the Peace Corps.

"My ultimate goal is not to save everyone's lives," he said. "It's not something that's going to happen."

But he and other volunteers thought they could teach a group of African teenagers about the dangers of HIV/AIDS and require them to share their knowledge with others in their hometowns.

Today, 40 boys like David Joao Ántonio Charles are meeting in the coastal city of Inhambane as part of a countrywide HIV/AIDS conference that Moorehead and other volunteers organized. Last year, a separate group organized a similar conference that taught girls about the disease.

"It's killing young people like me," Charles, 20, told the Observer Sunday in a phone interview, adding that he's not infected. "I feel very much sorry to see someone dying without realizing his dreams, without finishing his studies, without getting married and having a family."

Moorehead, who's from Albemarle, wasn't sure the conference would actually happen. Several participants were expecting to get paid, he said, because "we're foreigners with aid money," and many teens had to travel by bus, bicycle, airplane or foot to reach the site.

Not an easy feat when you're talking about an impoverished country whose length is the distance between Miami and Maine, said David Dellama, Mozambique's Peace Corps director.

Government agencies often are the ones to execute such big-scale conferences, while Peace Corps volunteers organize events such as science fairs, he said.

"I learned long ago that the volunteers in the Peace Corps are the ones who have the best ideas," Dellama said. "When they come up with something like this, we all need to listen."

The conference is financed with $15,000 from government and non-profit groups. On Sunday, all 40 boys and their school teachers arrived in Inhambane.

Today, they're scheduled to talk about masculinity, which in Mozambique is often determined by how many women a man sleeps with, Moorehead said. On Tuesday, they'll hear from an HIV-positive woman, and on Wednesday, from the spokesman of the traditional healers. That was the conference's clincher, said Moorehead's mom, Sally Pleasant, of Albemarle.

"My son was really excited," she said. "The head of the traditional healers in Mozambique will say it's a lie that they can treat AIDS."

At the end of the conference, the teens will pick one of four ways they'll spread the message back home: through a mural, play, community garden or documentary.

Charles isn't sure which medium he'll pick, but said he hopes his efforts might help him and other realize their dream.

"Everyone from the project will go to the university, if God blesses us," said Charles, who wants to study agriculture or medicine. In the meantime, he's intent on telling people that "HIV is really dangerous."

Moorehead knows first-hand the fear of infection.

Earlier this month, a barber in a town where 25 percent of the population is infected with HIV accidentally cut Moorehead with a dirty blade.

"I left and got very nervous," Moorehead said. "I called the Peace Corps physician. She calls me back right away and says, `Is this a joke? Well, it's April 1, and I've been getting a lot of weird calls from Americans.' "

Moorehead flew out for treatment and received medication for 30 days. He said it's unlikely he was exposed given the survivability of the virus outside the human body.

Pleasant said she has asked God to hold her son a little closer.

"I know he's doing what he wants to do," she said. "If he were to die tomorrow, I could say he lived a full life."

Once Moorehead's stint as a Peace Corps volunteer is up next year, he'll give up his bathtub, cement house and $24-a-month salary for other, unknown amenities as he continues to work with a local advocate and learn about sustainable agriculture.

Fast Facts on Mozambique

About 85 Peace Corps volunteers work in the country, 65 of them as teachers and 20 as health advocates. Moorehead is one of two North Carolinians there.

The country, which has almost 20 million people, gained its independence from Portugal in 1975.

From 1977 to 1992, the country collapsed under civil war, and about 70 percent of the population currently lives in poverty.

SOURCE: The Peace Corps and the CIA World Factbook.
Dánica Coto: (704) 358-5065.

When this story was posted in April 2006, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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Initiatives and Accomplishments: Vasquez's major initiatives and accomplishments since becoming Peace Corps Director include: an agreement with Mexico in 2003 to host volunteers, sending RPCVs to work domestically in Hurricane relief after Katrina, emphasis on recruitment of minorities and of community college graduates, upgrading Peace Corps' infrastructure especially IT upgrades in the online application tracking process and the Volunteer Delivery System, an emphasis on safety and security of volunteers including the creation of a Situation Room at Peace Corps Headquarters, modifying Peace Corps' "Five Year Rule" for employment, and the expansion of the Peace Corps to its highest level in 30 years. He is the third longest serving Peace Corps Director after Ruppe Miller and Shriver.

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Story Source: The Charlotte Observer

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Mozambique; HIV; AIDS


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