Following our trip to Lake Mburu, it is safe to say that this trip has took a turn away from sight seeing as we are diving head first into our research topics. The beauty that is instilled in Uganda has been shown throughout the entirety of this trip but with this beauty also comes pain. The issues impacting this country are complex and there is no one solution that will help Uganda push past these issues, especially in regards to our groups’ research topic, HIV.
The past few days have been filled with many site visits to different organizations in Kampala as well as time spent working on our final presentations, which are this upcoming Wednesday. Many of the site visits had direct relations to our topic, giving our group a ton of information on the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Uganda.
Along with these institutions, we were also able to visit an orphanage called Sanyu Babies, which takes care of a number of young children after following specific protocol. This protocol primarily consists of searching for relatives or the biological parents of the child. If there is no success in doing so, the workers do everything in their power to make the lives of these children as comfortable as possible. Many of the children are abandoned on the steps of the orphanage during the night, or even left in latrines. It was wonderful seeing their smiling faces but saddening to hear of how they have come to be at the orphanage. It was brought to our attention that two of the orphans happened to be HIV positive, but those taking care of the children are trained and sensitized on how to properly provide the infants with the ARVs and support needed to help suppress the disease.
Following our visit to the orphanage we visited an organization called Love to Love. This organization is known to provide a number of services for adolescents that are living with HIV. They allow children to come in to record songs, movies, and even commercials just to name a few activities. They are also firm believers that peer to peer motivation and education in regards to HIV/AIDS is important for these young ones. All the counselors/teachers were also HIV positive so they are better able to relate to what these children are going through, as they were once in their shoes. Through our research for our presentation, we’ve found that peer support is one of the best ways to offer support to those who are HIV positive, as well as encourage those infected to adhere to treatment.
Sunday was a free day for all of us, some choosing to stay in Kampala and explore the city, but most of us traveling to Jinja, the source of the Nile River, and participating in outdoor activities including hiking and ziplining! It was a fun day for all, and definitely a nice break from the long academic days we had been having. We all felt refreshed as we got back to work today, spending the day on our research projects. Many of us conducted our final interviews with experts in the fields we are researching, and many worked on structuring our presentations. Our group visited the TASO center at Mulago Hospital, which deals specifically with HIV, and interviewed an expert on issues with adherence to treatment. We learned of many of the barriers that prevent treatment from being regimented, including forgetfulness, transport costs to get to the clinics to receive medicines and drug stock-outs in the smaller, more localized clinics. It was a very informative day, and nice to venture off on our own a little more!
-Brandon, Chris and Lara