OPEN ‘WIDE’ – Serology, Pharmacolocy, Dentistry & Gynocology
In the small village of Najjembe, two large tents provided a postage stamp of shade from the Ugandan heat, but more importantly served as a banner announcing the arrival of various health care services that may otherwise have been out of reach. Initiated by the CHAP (Community HIV/AIDS Prevention) Programme, the predominant focus of this clinic would be to offer voluntary HIV testing, counselling and education, but would involve so much more than that. With the blessing of the local level 3 clinic offering their courtyard as a base, our horizons expanded to being able to provide the testing, counselling and treatment, as well as immediate treatment registration and associated medication distribution, dentistry, deworming treatment, distribution of food supplies to registered HIV positive children, and gynecological and maternal health services. All in all, we could say that today was a huge success!
On the front lines of HIV testing, the nominal values were very promising. With a total of 69 tests completed, only 1 case was confirmed positive. During this process, the teamwork amongst the staff, clinicians and volunteers was phenomenal. Each role was as important as the next. From rolling cotton swabs and numbering test strips, to the Luganda translation, data transcription, pin prick blood draws and result interpretation, the testing process ran smoothly.
In my personal experience, this interaction with locals revealed the obvious importance of community for each individual we encountered. I was delighted to see mothers coming with their children, following their grandmother, accompanied by aunts and friends, all prioritizing the importance of advocating for their own health. But one issue remained painfully obvious…Where were the men?? This is not a new issue, localized to a specific community, but an ongoing observation I have made throughout the past clinics that I have been involved in. Though being seen completely different that in our Canadian context, the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS creates a nearly insurmountable barrier working against us. Not allowing these men to open up and be vulnerable in taking advantage of CHAP’s testing services.
That being said, my prayer request would be that the men of the villages that we will be encountering in the days to come, would find the courage and be leaders in the community. That they would set examples and help to create awareness of the importance of knowing their status and the implications this has on breaking the chain of infection. ~ Trysta Pleasants
Another service that was offered at the outreach clinic today was treating the children with deworming tablets. Tablets would be pressed out of the foil covers, handed to the children who were then told ‘mila mangu’ (swallow fast). This would encourage the children to open their mouths, chew and swallow as children would try to share their tablets with their friends due to the sweet taste of the tabs. Between 30-40 tablets were handed out to the children today.
Working with Dentist Peter and an assistant Vickie, in a small 6×8 room, Lawrence and I kept busy with filling syringes with 2 ml of xylocaine, making cotton balls from a wad of cotton that were transferred to Dr. Peter as he pulled the 55 teeth from 53 people. Our patient’s ages ranged from 5 years old to approx. 65 years old. Peter was incredibly efficient with inviting the patients in to his ‘office’, checking their sore teeth and applying the freezing to the appropriate areas. They would then move back to the hallway to wait for the freezing to take. One by one in the ‘privacy’ of the office the patient’s heads were pressed against the wall or tucked tightly under Peter’s arm, he would tell them to open their mouths, then he wiggled and pulled at their teeth until they finally broke loose using his strength. Lawrence and I were kept active as the patients quickly rotating through the room. It was difficult for us to witness the removal of a front teeth on young patients, but understand that this was a quickest, most efficient way to care for the pain and suffering of the patient effectively. Many elderly also came through having one or two of their teeth removed as well. It was a great day of helping the Dr. and in a bigger way helping the patients who voluntarily came to have their teeth pulled. ~ Wilma Vander Leek
Due to the fact that HIV is now down to 7% of those tested, we were told that cervical cancer is currently the main killer of women. Today it was so awesome to see these women filing thru asking for cervical/breast cancer screening and birth control, taking control of their lives and future!! In a very hot hallway, they stood patiently waiting their turn, no matter the length of time, which was substantial. There was a true feeling of solidarity between myself, the midwife running the clinic, and the women filing thru no matter the lack of verbal communication. In a world where compromise is the number one word, the midwife made do without all the supplies we in Canada would take for granted and consider necessary, as alcohol swabs, pads for the bed for them to lay on etc. We take so much for granted, whereas in Uganda they “make do” with so little. ~ Bev Heroux
Our team was blessed as we were able to serve many people today in a variety of ways as a community desired to seek help for their own health and that of their families. Each was involved in some way by either capturing moments of the day through the camera lens, getting water or protein bars for those working in rooms, talking to patients as they patiently waited in line for one service or another.
Please join us in prayer as we anticipate our upcoming clinic next Monday that more men would come and be tested, being the example to the younger men and taking responsibility for helping change the culture of their community, in the fight against HIV in Uganda.
Bev, Trysta, Wilma & the Team