The positives and negatives of an HIV mobile clinic 8/13/09

Caitie Goddard in Uganda:

The positives and negatives of an HIV mobile clinic 8/13/09

2nd week for HIV testing. This time, the testing was done in the village of Nankawadde where we set up at the Kawuuzi health clinic. I had talked to Patrick, the director at the orphanage and was really hoping the kids would come. I wasn’t sure if they would be able to do it but at least this one was in walking distance so there was a chance!

Yesterday I bet Sam 500 USH
(about 25 cents) that we wouldn’t be leaving for the clinic until after 8am which was the “official” start time on all the posters we had so carefully placed around the village. I have learned the art of Ugandan time here. Ugandan time was explained to me like this; Time is about being comfortable. You don’t rush because it it not comfortable to have a time commitment. If you are uncomfortable at any given moment, your aim is to be comfortable with whatever you do next.

This leads to many leisurely tea breaks and casual chats with people on the road. With that in mind, I decided 8 would be the perfect time to wake up and I could then be ready to leave by what I imagined would be the departure time of 9…ish. I learn quickly so when we left at about 9:30, I felt very comfortable with my bet won and my morning relaxing!

When we arrived it was a little different story. By the time the counselors and nurses arrived at their comfortable time of 11:00, I had already given one presentation on Safe sex and abstinence to a group of about 25 people and was about to start on the healthy eating presentation when I noticed that there were a few important parts of the testing that had been forgotten. Namely, the numbered cards that each person should receive to help keep the results a little more confidential.

After asking around for paper and getting blank stares Brooke, the volunteer nurse, ripped some out of her notebook and we quickly made 57 pieces assuming that would be enough. We were only off by about 77 people! Once we started, we did not stop until 4:30pm. We did not take a break for food, water, the bathroom, anything. It was literally one after the other. My job was to see the person first, take their number and record it on their paper as well as our records and then fill out their information on another sheet where later we record results. Then, the patient would go to Noreen, a nurse from Uganda who would draw their blood. Brooke would take the sample and put it in the test tube and a lab worker then analyzed the results. Finally, I would have to record whether the results were positive or negative on the papers after they testing had been done. If it seems time consuming, it is. I could have easily written a novel with all the writing I did today!

The major work came when at around 1:00pm, 50 children came from the orphanage to get tested. Not only did we have a stream of adults still coming, we had 50 kids as young as 3 who needed testing. I was so proud of how well they did and most of them didn’t even cry! Remember, this testing was done in a poor village in Uganda. There were not separate rooms or to be more specific, there were NO rooms. The testing was done outside in the back of the health clinic. Therefore, all the children could see the needle going into the arm of the child in from of them-I can’t believe how tough they were! It was so cute to see the older kids comforting the younger ones who were crying after the results. It was truly amazing to see how brave and caring they all were! After they were finished and knowing they had at least a 30 minute walk back, they did not want to wait for the results. I was then officially entrusted to bring all the results back to the orphanage. Now, of course due to confidentiality, I won’t tell you the specifics but suffice it to say, I was VERY pleased with the kids results! They have enough challenges in their lives without having to deal with an awful disease like HIV/AIDS.

Finally returning back to KACCAD, we arrived to find we still had to water. It was my first exciting excursion down to the local spring where you bring your jerrycans and fill them up with running water from a stream somewhere in Uganda! The route is directly downhill so on the positive side, I had a workout to look forward to! I went with Brooke and Sam who showed us the way. Apparently, 5:00 is social hour at the spring and we waited about 40 minutes before it was our turn to fill up the jerrycans. After all 5 were filled, we began the no water workout and seriously, it’s no joke. When you are lugging two full cans, one in each hand and scaling your way up a dirt path, it can get a little tiring! At least I know I will appreciate my shower/pour a bucket over my head time a little more tonight!
Hopefully we will get water tomorrow as I desperately need to wash my clothes! That will probably mean 2 trips down to the stream but on the plus side, Saturday Chris, Brooke and I are headed into Kampala and are going to stay overnight in a hostal for backpackers which to us at this moment is like the Hilton! They have cold drinks, a pool table, and free internet! HEAVEN