From the Field

Our UNC intern has arrived in Uganda! Check out what Tori Lebrun has to say about her first week experiences with our partners in Africa!

If there is one word that describes the staff at New Life Medical Center best, that word is welcoming! I’ve spent my first week here in Northern Uganda learning the ins and outs of this special place where HIV patients come to receive patient-centered care. In the reception area, nurses Pamela and Patricia will give you a friendly greeting, even if you are crawling under their desk like this little one! While they determine your needs today, they will sympathize with you and put you at ease to share your health concerns.

boy under desk

What strikes me the most is that whatever your journey is through New Life Medical Center, clinical providers, counselors, and even the lab technicians and the pharmacist all do their utmost to make sure you understand how to care for yourself and your family.

As I was learning how the lab is run here, a woman entered with two young boys. She is HIV-positive and her baby, who is one year old, had to be tested for HIV. Nurse Florence had come with her from the Maternal and Child Health (MCH) department to continue counseling her about breastfeeding while she got her lab tests and prescriptions. This was a special case among the mothers enrolled here for the prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV (PMTCT). You see, Jennifer Aciro is deaf and cannot communicate verbally. No one here teaches sign language, so over the course of several months, the MCH nurses have learned some of her gestures. Florence was energetically gesturing to convey “stop” and “nursing”—otherwise, the child is at an increased risk of infection. I went to get an empty milk carton to show her she could feed cow’s milk to the baby, but it was difficult to tell if she had understood.

hiv

The next day, about 100 HIV-positive mothers had come with their babies and partners to learn about keeping their children HIV free and to get a bag of supplies in return for their participation in a project. Jennifer was there! No breastfeeding? Florence gestured. No breastfeeding, Jennifer confirmed, as she got her bag of cooking oil, soy flour, and soap.

So far, none of the babies born to these positive mothers has tested positive for HIV. Now her little one will have a better chance of staying HIV free.