Volunteer Hannah Carr, from our healthcare project in St Lucia, KwaZulu Natal, writes about the incredible experience of teaching HIV Education to rural farm workers. Many workers in South Africa are migrants from other countries or provinces, and are considered a high risk group for HIV transmissions in the country, which already hosts the largest number of HIV cases in the world. It’s hard to put something life-changing into a bunch of words to attempt to help someone understand it. I can describe events in a chronological sense, but I can’t really describe how it felt to see 16 timid and mostly uneducated adults, transformed into confident and aware individuals in just 3 days. This was my Adult HIV Education class: 13 males, three females, a lot of questions and a lot of discomfort to begin with. It was difficult to know what to expect as we arrived on day one of the course, but I was soon blown away by the enthusiasm that met myself and fellow volunteer Jo at the Monzi farm workplace. Monzi is a small area in rural KwaZulu Natal made up of mostly sugar cane farms, home to many workers who live on farming compounds. As we worked our way through the course material, our wonderful Zulu colleague Shwele translated the information to the class in a way that can only be described as “animated.” The course covered the basics of ‘what is HIV,’ its modes of transmission and prevention measures; however what I really focused on teaching was the importance of removing the stigma that surrounds the word itself. By the end of the first day, there was already a great sense of trust building within the group that allowed some very important and very brave questions to be asked. One extremely courageous man shared his positive status with the group and brought up some key questions about the difference in health between someone taking Anti Retroviral medication (ARVs) and a person who isn’t. This was a crucial turning point for the group, causing more and more daring questions to be raised. On the second day, we spoke about various STIs and also had the job of explaining how to partake in safe sex - and so the condom demonstration began!Between some awkward giggles and nervous looks, we managed to teach every member of the group how to safely use and dispose of a condom to prevent the spread of HIV between persons engaging in sex. Myself and Jo were both quite pleased to see the mens’ willingness to learn why this was so crucial to their health and at times we believe the photos of some STIs may have in fact scared them off the idea of intercourse altogether! The day of the exam was equally nerve-racking for myself and Jo as well as our class! With concentration that was similar to that of a VCE exam in Australia, they took to their paper and pencil with determination that blew us away. Every single one of the 16 - once confused - individuals in our class passed their exams and the relief on their faces as they each received their certificates was evident beneath the pure pride they all felt. As I said before, I honestly cannot explain how I felt seeing all of them with their certificates in hand at the end of that third day. Words like overjoyed, overwhelmed and emotional come to mind but when I really think hard, I can only say that it was indescribable. As we drove away from the same 16 nervous people we had met three days before, I could only muster a tearful response to such a transformation that we left behind. Want to make a difference in the lives of those affected by HIV/AIDS? Volunteer with us on one of our HIV/AIDS support volunteer programs.