I believe the most defining experience of my moral philosophy was when I taught HIV education in Uganda. I organized and taught curriculum to three primary schools in a part of Uganda where the HIV endemic is arguably the most destructive.
I taught to a population that practiced polygamy, which can spread HIV much faster than a monogamous relationship. Although I do not believe in polygamy I learned quickly to alter my curriculum to coincide with the cultural believes of the students. Just because I grew up in a western culture that teaches polygamy is wrong doesn’t make it wrong. Western culture is not right or better than Ugandan tribal culture.
My goal in Uganda was to help the students understand the cause of HIV and how to prevent contracting the disease. I was not there to change their traditions or tell them how to live their lives. I just wanted to provide the information for them to make healthy decisions.
Instead of emphasizing the idea of only having one sexual partner, like HIV curriculum in the West does, I talked more about getting tested often and condom use.
In this situation my ethical convictions were challenged. I knew polygamous relationships would increase the spread of HIV and is not how I would choose to live my own life. I didn't think it would be morally ethical to push my own opinions onto a student population. Just because I disagree with that lifestyle does not make it wrong or right. I also had to keep my goal in mind...to increase HIV awareness and hopefully prevent contraction. I had to figure out the best way to achieve my goal and I knew in order for the students to be receptive to my curriculum, it had to align with their tribal beliefs.
The morally correct action was to put aside my personal opinions and help the population in the most effective way.
I was humbled by this experience and realized there is no black or white in this situation. I adjusted my opinions to be more open-minded and create curriculum that would be effective.