Friday, 4 December 2009

Ugandan politics + Ugandan healthcare = frustration

I'm watching the kitten attack a clothes peg and have realised I'm going to miss him a lot! As much as he does scratch a lot while he 'plays' and pretends my arm/foot/eye is a mouse.

This is the last day we're house sitting so the last day I have reliable access to the internet. We're hopefully getting hooked up at our house but who knows how long that will take or when we'll have time to get it organised?

This week has been a busy one, with World Aids Day on tuesday meaning that we're working extra hard, mainly for political reasons. Yesterday I went out with another lab technologist and some counsellors to do VCT (Voluntary Counselling and Testing) in a village about half an hour away from Mbarara. Whether or not the clinic had been made to do it by the government and we were 'just there to show face and not to test lots of people' (according to the lab head!) it was definitely one of the most fulfilling and satisfying days since arriving in Uganda. We spent the day bleeding and testing 90 people who also got pre- and post-test counselling and advice on healthy living and avoiding HIV. It was pretty intense and incredibly hard work, but so rewarding to know that as a result, 90 more people now know their HIV status and will change their lifestyles accordingly. I also felt a huge responsibility to pray for everyone we tested, and was so relieved to only see 4 positives among the 90 tested.

Though it began as a 'political' day, and the plan had been to only be there for 1 1/2 hours just to prove we were 'doing our bit', we ended up staying until everyone who arrived was tested and counselled, and everyone in the team felt the tension and the need to stay until everyone had been got through. We were in an area where people had to have access to transport to reach medical services, so bringing the test to them made a huge difference.

However, I really feel I need to request prayer for those people who turned out positive. They now have to spend large amounts of money getting to health centres to keep up counselling, get drugs and see doctors for more tests. This is a huge burden on them, and not something that was factored into the political planning of sending city-based VCT units out to the villages. The work we do in the city is equally valuable, and means that everyone who is tested is followed up and has access to drugs, counsellors and doctors. But as we were only there to prove that the Ugandan government was doing something about HIV, we had to refer positive patients to a clinic miles away (but still closer than us) and had no way of helping them receive post-test care. Their lives will now be much harder than before we arrived, because unless they have the money to get to a doctor, they will die in the same way they would have before, but now with the knowledge that it's going to happen.

Obviously I'm pleased that they now know their status, as they have the power to try and do something about it, and family and community support is far more available than in the western world, so they won't be alone. What we did was valuable and indispensable to these people's lives, but the bad planning and political-ness of it meant that the work was left half done.

Tomorrow the entire clinic staff is going out to a town just outside Mbarara for a World Aids Day commemoration, where there will be stalls for organisations to tell the world what they do, as well as a huge parade and more VCT. I'll be spending most of the day on the end of a syringe (well, more than one, obviously they're changed between patients!) testing people who will have far better access to post-test care, so I'm really looking forward to it. I even have a JCRC t-shirt!

1 comment:

  1. You're so inspiring, Lou! I'll be praying for you, and for those people who have heard such sad news. xx Katherine