Sex. Sex, sex, sex. To say it’s fun is an understatement. Really, if it wasn’t, would you still be sitting on that bench in Parque Central, watching those new hot chicks in town? If sex sucked (in a bad way) would you be spending a Tuesday morning sunrise holding onto your wooden plank of a barstool, nursing that last shot of mezcal that the hottie from Lord knows where bought you before she disappeared to prepare for her Spanish lesson?
But when the afterglow fades, Antigua’s expats, visitors and language students have all the resources we need to minimize most of the unpleasant consequences of our mammalian drives.
For many Guatemalans, though, the consequences of a night of lovin’ can be much more serious. Nearly 40% of Guatemalans live on less than $2 per day. That’s barely enough to buy your date a Gallo. STI screening, contraceptives, and prenatal care are out of reach for most. Throughout Guatemala, illiteracy is high and access to health care is startlingly low. Only 38% of Guatemalan women use any form of birth control. As a result, the average Guatemalan woman has 4 to 5 children.
For many Guatemalan women sex can be deadly. Cervical cancer, which is frequently caused by HPV, a sexually transmitted virus, is the most common cause of cancer-related deaths in women of reproductive age. Furthermore, the maternal mortality rate in Guatemala is the highest in Central America. One woman in every 74 is at risk of dying during childbirth or shortly thereafter, mostly due to malnutrition, abortion complications, and a lack of reproductive health services.
It’s not that Guatemalan women don’t want to have control over their reproductive health – almost a third report an unmet desire for family planning services. However, educational, financial, and geopolitical obstacles keep those needs from being met. Fortunately, WINGS, a local NGO, is dedicated to giving Guatemalans the opportunity to make informed choices about their reproductive health, and so improve their quality of life.
Since gaining 501c(3) status in 2000, WINGS has been working primarily in the departments of Esquintla, Sacatepequez, Sololá and Chimaltenango (though it has a presence throughout the country) to make sex safer for Guatemalans. WINGS’ staff, a blend of Guatemalan, North American, and European women and men, runs three primary programs. WINGS’ Family Planning Initiative helps Guatemalan women claim their basic human right to decide how many children to have, when to have them, and with whom. The program provides family planning education and helps to defray the cost of long and short-term birth control. The Youth Program teaches Guatemalan teenagers about sexual health and responsibility, and trains them to educate their friends and families. And WINGS’ Cervical Cancer Program provides low-cost or free cervical cancer screening and treatment for thousands of Guatemalan women every year.
WINGS has recently introduced several new projects, including a microcredit project that enables trained healthcare promoters to provide family planning necessities to their communities while creating small businesses to lift themselves out of poverty. In addition, WINGS is introducing WINGS for MEN, which aims to teach Guatemalan men about sexual health and responsible fatherhood. And, WINGS is launching Guatemalan’s first sexual and reproductive health site for teenagers!
Anyone who’s passed a Wednesday night listening to Tom and Willie play “The Antigua Shuffle” knows how to get involved in Guatemalan sex. But if you want to get involved in Guatemalan sexual health, start by checking out WINGS’ website at www.wingsguate.org, where you can read more about the organization’s background and current projects. A few Q’s go a long way, too: Q100 pays for 1 woman to be screened for cervical cancer, and Q500 buys all the training materials for 10 men in the new WINGS for MEN program (donations are accepted online, or at the office at 7a Avenida Sur, #3a, just north of Rainbow Café and across the street). Or treat yourself to sinfully delicious WINGS chocolate from Chocotenango. Proceeds from the sales support the project.
Please find out more about Wings by visiting their website at www.wingsguate.org