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Training HIV Counselors in Mexico City

In December, the Alliance Health Project’s Publications and Training Unit, which conducts face-to-face and online trainings for mental health and health care providers, completed its first international training! Although over the past 30 years, AHP Executive Director James Dilley has provided training and technical assistance in the Caribbean, Africa, and Asia, the project’s Training Program had limited its formal training activities to the United States.

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Trainers Jennifer Shockey, MPH and Stephen Scott, MA, delivered California’s three-day HIV testing and counseling certification course to 13 prospective HIV test counselors at the Center for Research in Infectious Diseases (CIENI), a department of the Instituto Nacional de Enfermedades Respiratorias (INER) in Mexico City. The CIENI testing program is rapidly expanding and increased the number of tests it performed by 90 percent in 2013 and expects to increase testing by 20 percent in 2014. Shockey and Scott also offered a one-day master class for six experienced counselors, which focused on ambivalence and resistance among clients, feelings that counselors can gently address by applying motivational interviewing techniques.

The trainings had some hitches, including a power outage that forced a location change during the final evaluated role-plays: participants instead demonstrated counseling skills in a cafe! But participants loved the courses.  One participant commented on how effective the trainers were in crossing cultural differences between California and Mexico. Another appreciated the trainers capacity “to adapt it to our particular needs, the many practical exercises, and role-playing.” And a third lauded the way in which the trainers “generated motivation and enthusiasm to learn.”

Overall, Gustavo Reyes Teran, MD, MPH, CIENI Head, said he was grateful for the visit and expressed interest in future collaborations. And Maria Candela Iglesias Chiesa, PhD, a researcher and CIENI Health Project Coordinator, appreciated not only how “immensely patient and accommodating [AHP trainers were] concerning the language barriers, which allowed us to have a very productive training for everyone, regardless of their level of English,” but also the trainers’ “great flexibility” which ensured “the course could be as useful as possible for everyone.” She concluded, “I’m very proud of my team,” who worked tremendously hard to prepare for the course, and “Thanks Jen and Stephen for your patience, teaching and sharing.”