|The long walk to the village with Maké
Today I organised along with Make and a primary school teacher to teach 30-40 people who live in a village about HIV. I really had no idea what to expect about the lesson, however I prepared an introduction and 2 stories in order to get across our message.
I awoke early in the morning, met Make in town and we got a bus, then trekked the 2/3 miles into the Swazi hill tops. On our way there we were continually greeted by all Make’s friends and patients that she has helped over the years.
When walking down the dirt road we came Make was delighted to see one girl walking with her brother down the road, they were both so happy to see each other- jumping and hugging with joy. She then told me the story; apparently in January this young woman had be crippling unwell and had go to Make for help to take her into hospital, as she could no longer walk. When in hospital she was diagnosed with HIV and TB (an infection of the lungs). From meeting her today you would have no idea that she had been so unwell a few months ago. Since starting treatment ARV’s and TB treatment she has made a brilliant recovery.
Since I have been working in a hospital I have seen many people who come to hospital when they are very unwell. This is because people tend to attend the clinic when they are desperate for medical care, as only then are they willing to pay for the expense. However this lady, 9 months after starting treatment and being desperately unwell had made a full recovery, and today was walking her young brother to school. For me this is a welcome reminder of the impact of ARVs and how treating HIV really can save lives. With this uplifting story in mind we went on to the school hall that had been set aside for us to teach in that day.
HIV and Sex Education
Finally we made it to the school, where all the villagers were waiting for us. There was an amazing turn out around 40 people of all ages had come.
After introductions and the traditional Swazi proceedings including a harmonious sung prayer, we introduced our topic. We explained that HIV is a very common illness in Swaziland, so trying to reinforce the importance of not being shy about testing or going to the hospital for treatment as many people other people are in a similar position and also the disease.
This lead on to how HIV is contracted; by sex, blood mixing, child birth and breast feeding. As well as how it is NOT contracted; by hugging, touch, living with people, sharing plates and cups for example. By pictures we explained that there are “emasoltdas” (blood solders) in our blood that keep us strong and fight infection and illness. HIV destroys these “emasoltdas” and so your body is more vulnerable to sickness.
To explain this we illustrated a story about “SiSi” who lived locally and met a boy who she had sex with, she did not use a condom. She knew that she could get HIV from sex so was worried about having the virus, so went to get tested at her local clinic; this was free of charge. The story goes on to explain that unfortunately SiSi tested positive for HIV. On fin gnigout this result she was obviously very scared and afraid, however she went to the doctor who explained that she could take pills to help fight the HIV infection and prevent her getting ill. She had to take the pills once a day at the same time every day and with food. The pills did not cure her HIV but helped her “emasoldas” get stronger so they were able to fight sickness. SiSi then a few years later met a boy that became her boyfriend. She knew she had to always use condoms with her new partner so not to pass on the HIV infection.
|This picture is of when we were demonstrating the “emasoledrs” (blood soldiers) in SiSi’s blood- they are there to prevent illness, however HIV infection makes these blood soldiers weaker and so makes you more prone to illness. However ARV’s help to reduce HIV in your blood and so help make the blood soldiers stronger.
Our second story was involved a man called John who like SiSi had HIV. John had 2 wives. While in England this would cause a stir in the audience, this is common place amongst this village, with many of the men having more than 5 wives, basically as many as they can afford. The story of John explained about how again he took his ARV’s and the use of condoms during sew. However it also explained the importance of condoms use amongst HIV infected couples. John’s first wife did not have HIV so he always used a condom so not to infect her. John’s second wife had HIV; John was told by his doctor to always use a condom when having sex with her too, as this prevents infection of different types of HIV. Reinfection of HIV can make you more ill and what’s more there are different strains of HIV may be resistant to certain ARV’s. We finished by summarising the main ways to reduce the spread of HIV: 1ABC.
1 partner – if possible, however many of our audiences had many wives
Always use a Condom
We then handed out saving lives wirst bands, with the message when every you look at the wrist band you must think about 2 thinks 1) Testing- everybody should test for HIV and should be done regularly. 2) ARVs- if you have HIV remember to take your ARV’s every day at the same time. I hope this message stays in their mind when they see the wrist band.
|Picture taken after handing out saving lives wrist bands- everyone is waving their wrist band.