Today was my first official day going out in the field with my host organization, Kitovu Mobile. They are a Catholic organization that helps people infected and affected by HIV and AIDS cope - through medicine, counseling, hygiene lessons, organic farming schools, an income generating activities and their main goal is to give their clients a new life. Since meeting everyone at this organization they have been nothing but warm and welcoming to me. They all call me by my Ugandan name Nassali, and get a kick out it every time that an American girl was given a clan name. This week before I settle down in my department, they are giving me the opportunity to go out the field with each one so that I can learn more about them. They are Kitovu Mobile, meaning that they are always driving or even motorcycling out into villages.
Today I went with the Comprehensive Care & Treatment Program department who give medications to clients that are sick or feeling ill. These particular clients are not on ARVS because their white blood cell count is still relatively high. The first stop was at a Catholic Primary School in a village outside of Masaka. The school was so huge and had what looked like close to 400 students. As soon as they saw a Mzungu come out of the car about half of these 400 ran up to me. The nurse who helps pass out the drugs had to keep reminding the little kids in Luganda that I was human. He even told them, “Come feel her arm! She is just like us!” It was such an overwhelming feeling, but a great one at that. The next stop was another village even farther. Here I met a boy who looked to be 11-13 who was picking up medication. The counselor who came along pulled me aside and told me about him. He told me that the boy was born with AIDS and he was suffering from the sins of his parents, because transferring HIV/AIDS to your baby in the womb is preventable. Sadly his mother didn’t take the necessary precautions. He also told me about the stigmatization that people with HIV/AIDS face in Uganda and that if school children see this boy at the truck then they will mock him at his school. This was by far the hardest part of my day, to see someone who was born with a virus that he had no control over but would be dealing with everyday of his life.
After we visited clients and passed out medication we hung out and bought some fruits from some of the nurse’s friends near by. It was a fun way to debrief after the day.