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Feb 22, 2018

Helping save lives in Guatemala

WINGS has provided 57,817 cervical cancer screenings since 2001. Even though we see an increased level of interest in having a screening, alarming mortality rates show cervical cancer detection and treatment are still a pending issue in Guatemala.

Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer for women globally, but 70% of cases are concentrated in developing countries. Moreover, 9 out of 10 deaths from cervical cancer occur in the developing world and it is the leading cause of death by cancer among Guatemalan women. According to the Pan American Health Organization, approximately 1,500 Guatemalan women are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year. However, this number only takes into account the cases detected in health facilities; the odds are that there are several non-reported cases due to a lack of access and awareness to get annual cervical cancer check-ups. In fact, most cervical cancers in Guatemala are detected at stages II or II, that is, when the cancer has spread beyond the cervix.

Approximately 26% of WINGS patients have had their first cervical cancer screening with us. WINGS offers cervical cancer screenings in all our clinics, either within our stationary clinic or our mobile unit clinics. We use visual inspection with acetic acid (VIA) for immediate detection of cervical cell abnormalities and same-day treatment using cryotherapy for pre-cancerous cells that may lead to cervical cancer.

During the individual interview process, WINGS asks all patients about their last cervical screening date, if they ever have had one. When patients say they had their last screening less than a year ago, WINGS still needs to make sure they received their results, as we have found out many women never return to the rural health center for a diagnosis. WINGS tries to adapt its services to the rural Guatemalan context by doing rapid screenings that show results within 10 minutes.

In 2018 alone, we aim to provide 3,700 VIA screenings. This work would simply not be possible without your help. You are truly helping us to save lives. ¡Gracias!

Feb 13, 2018

Why We Love LARCs First

In 2015, we began implementing the LARCs First methodology, meaning that we explain all available birth control methods in terms of efficacy: beginning with the most effective (IUD and subdermal implant) and ending with the least effective method (condom). There are numerous misconceptions about LARCs in Guatemala. It is believed that they are only meant to be used by married women or women who have already had children, some think that they can make women infertile, or that they are permanent methods. To dispel these myths, our educational talks strongly emphasize that contraceptive methods can be used by women regardless of whether they have had children or not, and that they can be removed after 5 years (in case of the implant) or 10 (IUD), or earlier if the person decides to.

Since implementing LARCs First, we have seen the number of contraceptive methods patients shift away from short-acting methods like pills and injections to long-acting methods. What this means for us is that while our projected number of total patients is generally right on the mark, the balance is flowing toward LARCs. What that means for our patients is that they are much more effective in avoiding unintended pregnancy for longer amounts of time!

As you can see from the chart of data, our patients last year showed an overwhelming preference for subdermal hormonal implants over IUDs. We believe this is because myths about the copper T or IUD are so very pervasive. We have women ask us all the time if they will get pregnant and have a baby with the T embedded in the baby’s forehead or if the T becomes embedded in the uterine tissue forever. Using a rights-based approach, we offer education to dispel these myths in all of our programs, whether within our Youth Peer Education Program, our community outreach, or in one-on-one patient counseling. Despite these misconceptions about the IUD, we are delighted that the subdermal hormonal implant is so popular.

At WINGS, we know that the education we provide is just as important as the actual physical contraceptive methods we provide. We could not provide wither of these dimensions of our services without the generosity of donors like you. Thank you so much for standing with WINGS as we provide life-changing reproductive health services to Guatemalan youth, women, and men. We <3 LARCS and YOU!

We love LARCs
We love LARCs
Examples of Contraceptive Methods
Examples of Contraceptive Methods
Nov 28, 2017

Confronting Conservativism & Machismo

Field Educator Evelyn explains VIA at WINGS clinic
Field Educator Evelyn explains VIA at WINGS clinic

WINGS has provided 57,132 cervical cancer screenings since 2001. While we are beginning to see that more women know such a screening exists and are interested in getting screened, we are always challenged with two aspects of Guatemalan culture: religious conservatism and ubiquitous machismo. Our staff recently was reminded of these hurdles in two specific situations.

For the last year, WINGS has partnered with a large and well-established local banana farm to offer twice monthly cervical cancer screening to their numerous female employees and female family members. The farm owner requested that we only provide cervical cancer screenings and not offer any other reproductive health services. Each time we arrived for these clinic days, we were welcomed and we had hoped that as we gained this farm owner’s trust, we might eventually be allowed to offer additional reproductive health services to the employees and their families. This hope was halted rather abruptly this fall when conservative family members insisted that the owner cut ties with WINGS.

Thanks to encouragement from other non-profit groups and community members, we are currently working cautiously to re-establish the relationship.

In November, we met Luisa Maria, a 27 year-old mother of three who came to a WINGS mobile clinic to get an IUD (intrauterine device). As with every long-acting contraceptive method we provide, we offered to screen Luisa Maria for cervical cancer for free. While she did not have any symptoms that might have concerned her, she agreed, noting that it had been 4 years since her last screening. She was surprised to learn that her cervix showed abnormal cells that were too advanced to treat with cryotherapy treatment and we would have to refer her for colposcopy. As we explained all of this to her and answered her questions, her husband, who was waiting outside the clinic with their youngest child, became increasingly agitated and impatient. When he demanded that his wife leave the clinic because she was taking too long, our staff stepped in to calm him.

Luisa Maria’s case is one that we see often. Many of our patients come to us not only without the support of their partner, but often with resistance from their partner. This resistance is usually expressed in some form of machismo and can be an unsurmountable barrier. WINGS works every day to educate and empower women to have a voice in their own health and decision making.

We are so grateful to you for supporting WINGS and the work we do to confront these and other challenges. ¡Gracias!

 
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