Thursday, 11 November 2010

What Some Say

One mode of transportation to the AIDS Clinic
Got a chuckle tonight sitting down in Maggies bar with an administrator for Mengo Hospital. We were talking about the state of the roads in Kampala. Referring to the onslaught of potholes. His story was a knee slapper. 
He pointed his hand in one direction attempting to describe the location. Then he stated its claim to fame.
“The pothole is so big it has fish in it!” he said adding, “There is no shame.”
Made me think. I saw a word today that triggered the right association for me around the dogma associated with HIV/AIDS. That word was stigma.
According to Dr. Watiti Stephan’s book, HIV/AIDS 100 Commonly Asked Questions, “Stigma is the fuel that spreads HIV and makes it so difficult to fight it.”
Nowadays, we know more. In Africa it is understood by many that HIV/AIDS is preventable. Also, that it’s incurable. And now that it is manageable. Providing the patient has access.
Here’s how. Antiretroviral drugs or ARV's for short.
But the test has to come first. Whether they’re feeling well or not. To know your HIV status is to know your CD4 count.
Both women I worked with today at the Mengo Hospital AIDS clinic were HIV positive. Both enrolled in the ARV's program. As one put it. Once you start on the drugs. You’re on them for life.
However, there’s some hope in prolonging the start of the prescription. Something Friends of Mengo have funded and continue to research the benefits. First there was a selenium study. Then a nutritional supplement study with a product known as e'Pap (produced in South Africa).
I asked one of the women what e'Pap meant to her.
“It’s an immune booster,” she said. Adding, “You have to qualify to receive it.”
Depending on the CD4 count. When the CD4 count goes below a certain number, ARV treatment is required. However, some patients have delayed the consumption of ARV's (there are many known side-effects) by as much as a year by taking the e'Pap. Essentially a composition of maze, soya and 28 different minerals and vitamins proven to boost the immune system and provide more nutrition then what’s available in the consumption of their daily food .
Many HIV/AIDS patients can also succumb to TB. In addition to their drug treatment at Mengo Hospital, they also receive e'Pap.
We’d reached 146 in the weigh-ins already today. Part of this morning’s job for me. Helping to record the patients weight in their files. It wasn’t yet noon.
Many of the patients waiting in the clinic were here to re-fill their drug prescriptions. Some for CD4 blood tests. Others for cervical cancer screenings. Still others for a doctor’s assistance.
While they waited a nurse stood up with a white board educating them on this and that.
A young girl ran around with her shoes off. Playfully chewing on a cob of corn. Her mother sitting down and cradling an infant.
Who else qualifies for e'Pap I asked?
“Normally young kids like that,” she said pointing to that young girl. Because they are growing. And not yet on the ARV's.”
Many HIV positive at birth.
Later in the day I conferred with "Dr. Jim" He gave me a copy of the study Nutritional Supplements Can Delay the Progression of AIDS in HIV-Infected Patients: Results from a Double-Blinded, Clinical Trial at Mengo Hospital, Kampala, Uganda.
It’s what some may say. There is no cure for HIV/AIDS. But there is hope in prolonging the life of this generation. 

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