Kimberly Vrudny

Participant 30

In 30/30 Participants, Mexico, OMIECH on August 12, 2010 at 2:00 am

"Participant 30" is a health promoter working with indigenous communities in Chiapas, Mexico, who shares in her journal some Mayan perceptions of HIV/AIDS.

I will talk about my experience with AIDS, working with women in traditional Indian medicine.

In communities where there is an AIDS infection, or an illness, [the diagnosis] is not clear. What is AIDS? [in Tzotzil] People only speak of “potz lomal chamel,” which is found in bed, so to speak. (For example, when someone invites us to go swimming in the river, we encounter the spirit of disease.) For diagnosis, it is necessary to ask: How did we encounter it? When did it come? What symptoms do we have? When did they start? Traditional doctors make the diagnosis by [reading] the blood, whereas the doctors at the hospitals make the diagnosis by means of special machines. “Potz lomal chamel” is not the same as AIDS, but it also causes the body to weaken. Sexually transmitted diseases are complicated. And so this is presented as AIDS.

When men and women go outside of their communities, and migrate, they spread the illness when they return, infecting their wives or husbands. So grows the seed.

The AIDS community is called [again in Tzotzil] “veel chamel” because it is something that eats you from the inside. It is difficult to speak of AIDS, due to grief, prejudice, customs, and because you must not speak publicly about the private parts of men and women (the penis and the vagina).

When we speak of AIDS, we speak about how to prevent it by using medicinal plants. People who are sick, only they know in their hearts [that they have AIDS]. They do not speak of it due to grief [and] fear. It is not made public—only the one who tested [the blood], only the doctor knows. It is not God’s punishment! On the contrary, lack of self care is bad. We are to protect the body and to prevent illness, and to treat the body. God has given us medicines and plants, which we respect. We listen to those who know (doctors and midwives) that it is the devil’s work simply to have sex with anyone. Furthermore, there is no communication between the young, who do not understand advice and who do not care to prevent diseases. So there are herbs that we can use, but we must not condemn people, for it is most important to prevent discrimination among the population. There are some herbs that we take but because of a lack of economic resources, they have not been researched to show their effectiveness and thereby help to prevent and cure AIDS in the population.

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