Thursday, November 01, 2012
FSD- AIDS Activitism in Bolivia
When University of San Francisco senior Lucas Waldron went to Cochabamba, he expected to work with the Instituto Para el Desarrollo Humano (IDH), an HIV prevention organization. There, he helped increase knowledge about AIDS, encouraging behaviors that favor prevention, and improved the attention to and care of people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) in health care centers. He also worked with the communication department, specifically in graphic design for IDH's events and programs, in addition to attending sexual health workshops at local and rural high schools and middle schools.
But along the way, Lucas discovered a community that had been not only underserved, but almost completely marginalized: the transsexual sex workers of Cochabamba. As a result, Lucas shifted his attention to their special needs, especially in the areas of education and prevention, in alliance with an organization called Mesa de Tabajo Nacional, founded by one of the sex workers herself, and in conjunction with Igualdad LGBT – Santa Cruz.
To further this process, Lucas wrote and designed an instruction booklet, “Trans en Bolivia: Información Sobre las diferentes identidades de género (Information on Varying Sexual Identities)" that was distributed to 200 high school students. As a film production minor at USF, Lucas also saw the opportunity to meld his creative filmmaking talents and he wrote and directed a film, "La Identidad de Justicia: Mujeres Trans en Cochabamba (The Identity of Justice: Transsexual Women in Cochabamba)" that was ultimately distributed, in DVD form, through IDH events and partner organizations.
“I wanted this film to be not only a frank look at HIV transmission and prevention, but about the lives of these trans women,” Lucas said. “LGBT people are marginalized in Bolivia, these sex workers even more so. Of the approximately 70 transsexual women I knew about, virtually everyone is HIV positive. I wanted the film to be instructive, but not necessarily academic, so that the realities of their lives could be expressed in a meaningful and touching way—and to give them a platform to speak.”
Heartened by the positive response from the film thus far—including a screening the AIDS Expo in Bolivia and by his faculty advisors—Lucas is now entering the film in festivals around the country. He has already been invited to show at the San Francisco Transgender Film Festival on Nov 8th-11th and looks forward to future acceptances in the coming weeks. “In many ways, “Lucas said, “my internship taught me about the power of community, how courageous marginalized people can be, and of the transformative nature of film.” Whether he elects graduate school in film, further studies in politics, or decides to gain on-the-job experience in film and video production, it’s clear that Lucas Waldron’s work will help empower people in the LGBT community and beyond. In the meantime, Lucas--and all of us--have been encouraged by media interest in his work which is being profiled in The Huffington Post, Lesbian News, Bay Area Reporter, and bestselling author Michelangelo Signorile's national radio show.
The project’s sustainability was commended by Mauricio Ramirez, FSD’s program director in Cochabamba, who said, "Lucas' contribution was very important to the organization where he worked and also to the FSD team in Bolivia. The area in which he worked is still very new and taboo for many sectors of society. The video that he made is serving to educate youth about transgender persons. IDH organizes a large event to educate youth about AIDS issues, respect for human rights, and sexual education. About 17,000 young students attend and the material developed by Lucas is part of this Exhibition, which helps many people understand the transgender struggle in Bolivia. Lucas did an excellent job and his work will continue to be important and affect many lives in the future."