HIV is BAD!
The last few days have kind of felt like they have just been on repeat – we legitimately do the same thing every day. We do clinic in the morning, then come back to our hostel, have a group meeting, and work on group presentations. Our group has chosen to do presentations to our community on prevention, transmission and treatment of HIV and AIDs, as the prevalence of HIV in our community is 8.3%. This is a staggering number when you compare it to Canada’s prevalence of 0.3%, and you always hear of campaigns in Canada trying to reduce the prevalence even further! Therefore, you can imagine the amount of people here who are affected.
On Tuesday, we did our first presentation on HIV to a Catholic all girls’ high school. Nicole and I were given the part of writing about what HIV and AIDs is generally, its prevalence and statistics about HIV in Uganda, testing methods in Uganda as well as some signs and symptoms of HIV. As it was a Catholic girls’ school, however, we kind of had to tiptoe around the subject of condoms, as the Catholic church does not support the use of condoms. Also, in Uganda, they try to just emphasize the importance of abstinence in high schools, while kind of by passing the importance of condom use. Although I do agree that abstinence is the only sure way that you will not contract HIV, being realistic, we all know that probably about 40-50% of high school children are having sexual relations. Especially when you look at the maternity records, and find that the average age of a first time delivering mother is 16, and a good percentage of them being as young as 13 years old. Therefore, I think that educating these teenagers about the importance of condom use is essential in stopping the spread of HIV, but I guess that’s just a personal opinion. Our presentation last a full 2 hours, and it was actually very gratifying when we reached the end and many of the girls had questions, as it made us feel like they were actually interested in learning more about the subject.
On Wednesday, we went to another secondary (high) school, but this school was co-ed, and we ended up teaching to over 400 teenagers, ranging from ages 12-18. It seems that whenever Nicole and I introduce ourselves, the kids find our names to be the most hilarious thing they have ever heard! We are still trying to figure out why that is. Haha. Our presentation went much like the first one did, with a huge emphasis on abstinence, and very little education on condom use. However, I do feel as though we got some major prevention methods across to them, as some of the kids thought that if there was blood on a sharp object from someone that was infected, they could just put it in the sun for 10 minutes, and the virus would be gone. Small steps can eventually equal big changes – or at least that’s what we’re aiming for!
Today… well today I must say I have found out where my limit in terms of frustration. I managed to keep it all together, and did not get angry at anyone, but I found I did have to put my foot down and hold my ground when it came to delegating some group roles today. We also went to the Catholic church service again today, after which our group held a quick presentation to some of the congregation on HIV and AIDs. You can imagine that not very many people stayed to hear the presentation, and condoms were not even allowed to be mentioned. However, I hope someone took at least SOMETHING from the presentation, because if we can reach at least one person, then there may be a chance we can stop someone down the road from contracting HIV and living with it for the rest of their lives.
After we got back from church, we came had tea, and then a couple of students headed down to check on some patients, as we are usually the only medical personnel around. By the time I got to the ward, an 18 year old girl came in, unresponsive and hyperventilating. She could follow a light when it was shone in her eyes, but she could not hear or respond to her name. We thought that maybe she was having a hypo glycemic attack, however the lab here is not capable of doing any tests to check for it. After and hour of monitoring her, we moved her to a different ward (one with light bulbs), where one of the nurses finally got her to come to. Since she was semi-conscious and responding somewhat to her name, I decided to bring her some candy from my room, just in case she was hypo glycemic, or having a diabetic attack. However, she was still hyperventilating, and at one point her respiratory rate was 112 breaths/minute, which greatly exceeded even her pulse rate! One of the most frustrating things about working in the clinic here, is that you know exactly what you need to do for the patient, but you do not have the resources in order to do so, therefore you are not able to help your patient. In this case, the patient severely needed oxygen , yet this health centre does not even have that to give to their patients. Therefore, we ended up waiting another hour trying to find someone to take the girl to another hospital that would have oxygen. Even when someone did come to take the girl, she still had to endure another 2 hours to reach the hospital! I really hope she was able to make it there in time. One of the other medical students here told me tonight that working as a physician in Uganda really is depressing, as you could have all the knowledge in the world, and know exactly what to do for your patient, but without the resources or equipment, you usually end up losing a good percentage of them. He said that is why people see doctors here as murderers – strictly due to lack of resources. It is actually very sad and extremely frustrating for all parties involved. I most definitely appreciate the resources that even the smallest of health centres in Canada have now, seeing how little Ugandan health centres have.
But I am no fairly exhausted, so I think it is time for me to try and get a good nights’ sleep, and try to refreshed for tomorrow, as we are presenting at a community gathering.
Good Night/Good Afternoon! :)
PS. My foot is much better to anyone who is wondering!