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Nov 17, 2017

Beyond Family Planning

Nurse Martha explains contraceptive methods
Nurse Martha explains contraceptive methods

WINGS began providing Voluntary Surgical Contraception (tubal ligations and vasectomies) in 2015. We currently partner with 14 hospital and numerous health posts throughout Guatemala to provide these highly sought-after services. In the first 9 months of 2017, we have provided 1,050 tubal ligations and 129 vasectomies. In a country where machismo challenges our work daily, we are especially excited about the slowly increasing demand for vasectomies. We ask our patients for a donation of Q. 50 (less than $7) for these procedures.

While vasectomies are far easier to perform, both for the patient and the doctor, we still see many more women than men wanting to permanently prevent pregnancies. Each month, our mobile unit teams travel to rural areas of Guatemala to offer VSC as well as Long-Acting Reversible Contraceptive methods (LARCs). In an average month, our team of 2 doctors, 8 nurses, 2 health educators, and 2 drivers host 32 jornadas or pop-up clinics.

During a recent tubal ligation clinic, a 30-year-old woman who was not on our patient list arrived wondering if she might get a tubal ligation that day. In performing her patient intake, the WINGS nurses asked how many children she had. She surprised the nurses when she answered 7! While she was waiting for the procedure, she held her baby in her arms and mentioned that he was 42 days old. Our nurses became worried when they realized that he was having trouble breast-feeding and noticed breathing problems as well. When mom was asked about baby’s health, she said that he had “a bit of a cough." Because of the baby's age, our nurses recognized this as a danger sign and recommended he be sent to the emergency room of the same hospital and he ended up receiving a nebulizer treatment. The mom was operated on successfully and was incredibly grateful for the attention that she was given.

Martha, one of the nurses that attended this patient and her son that day remarked that, “Comprehensive care is one of the main pillars in health. As an institution we cannot limit ourselves to paying attention only to what is happening directly to our patient, we must be aware of their surroundings and environment as well. That’s why we provide counseling not only on contraceptive methods, not only in sexual health or reproductive rights, but we also focus on issues that affect our patients’ families and children.

Thank you so much for standing with WINGS as we provide life-changing reproductive health services to Guatemalan youth, women, and men. We simply couldn’t do this work without you!

Aug 30, 2017

WINGS Reaches 1000s with Cervical Cancer Screening

WINGS VIA Results Jan-July 2017
WINGS VIA Results Jan-July 2017

As the Medical Director for WINGS Guatemala, I have the opportunity to talk with other medical providers in Guatemala about the incredible work that we accomplish as a relatively small NGO (non-governmental organization). Recently I participated in a forum with various organizations working in cervical cancer detection and prevention. During this gathering, we discussed trends that we are seeing in the field and strategies that we have used with success.

WINGS uses a screening procedure called VIA (visual inspection with acetic acid) which gives immediate results in the field and allows us to treat positive cases with same-day cryotherapy. We use this process because of its low cost and its rapid results. Many of our patients travel long distances to reach us and we know that requiring them to come back in a few days or even weeks to get lab results would be nearly impossible. VIA has been shown to be as sensitive as a pap smear in detecting abnormal cervical cells. For any cases that show more significant abnormalities than we can treat, we make referrals for colposcopies or treatment as needed.

One of the more remarkable pieces of data that arose during our recent forum was that many medical providers are seeing fewer positive cases of abnormal cells. We are interested to see if this decrease is simply a momentary dip or if the data will eventually show that cases of cervical cancer are truly declining in Guatemala.

From January to July of 2017, WINGS screened 2,431 women for cervical cancer with 64 positive results or 2.63%. These results are in line with what we would expect for the normal range of positive screenings, however, they do show a slight decline from last year.

We will keep you posted on the results that we see in the field and hope that you will continue to support the work we are doing to save women’s lives in Guatemala.

Women learn about VIA at WINGS clinic
Women learn about VIA at WINGS clinic
Aug 23, 2017

Meet Enma - a WINGS Volunteer Health Promoter

Enma Rodas - WINGS Volunteer Health Promoter
Enma Rodas - WINGS Volunteer Health Promoter

One of WINGS’ longest-standing programs is our network of roughly 35 Volunteer Health Promoters: community leaders identified within underserved rural areas to be a local point of service. Through their intimate linguistic and cultural knowledge of the communities they serve, they are able to provide quality contraceptive counselling, low-cost short-acting methods, and referrals to WINGS medical clinics for additional services.

Our Volunteer Health Promoter, 40 year old Enma Rodas, started with WINGS 5 years ago after being referred by a friend that was in the program at that time. She has become one of our strongest supporters, advocating for reproductive health in Guatemala: “Family Planning means everything to me. It helps us in every single aspect of life and thanks to it, I have a better life. My siblings have a better life. My community has a better life. Everyone is better.”

Enma serves the community of San Pedro Yepocapa in Chimaltenango. She used to sell cosmetic lotions in her community and started promoting contraceptive methods to her clients. Now she has around 40 patients. “I bring everything I learn from WINGS to my village. Now, after all this time, I see meaningful changes in the women that are using a contraceptive method. They are happier because they can enjoy their lives without being afraid of getting pregnant.”

San Pedro Yepocapa is a poor community and most of Enma’s patients are unemployed or work as farmers. She explains that promoting reproductive health to village elders is extremely difficult, since they believe many myths and are closed minded regarding contraceptives. “They say, for example, that anyone who uses the birth control injection will accumulate filth in her stomach and it will make her fat. It is hard to stop the rumors,” she explains.

Enma’s mother had 10 children but 3 of them died as children. Enma wanted to have 2 children, but she ended up having 3. “When my last daughter was 6 months old, I got a tubal ligation and it was the best decision of my life. I feel that I still have a lot of energy and I can fully enjoy my children, who are already teenagers!” She has two sons, 20 and 17 and a daughter who is 16 - she is proud that she talks about reproductive health with all of them. They, as well as her husband, are totally supportive of her.

She recognizes that working with WINGS means facing some hard moments. “Every patient reacts differently to each contraceptive method and sometimes they are scared, but I always try to calm them.” She loves to be part of this journey and she sees the rewards. “One of my patients is a 30 year-old woman with 8 children. I tried to convince her for long to use a contraceptive method. Now she is truly thankful to me and WINGS for helping her. Before she had no time for herself and her body was going through many changes. Now she is gets a monthly injection and she is happy because she feels self-confident and young again.”

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