On Tuesday, we traveled even farther than on our trip to Anaka to do a blood screening in Otici village in Lamogi sub-county. The scenery was really different from what we had experienced before, with small hills jutting out of the ground, as opposed to the flat countryside we usually encounter. On the way, we stopped at Kaladima Health Center, with a Ministry of Health truck in tow. We picked up two laboratory technicians and a midwife who carried out the blood screening along with Franny and Tycoon.
Upon arrival in Otici, we got news that the community had thought the blood screening was supposed to be the day before and had gathered, awaiting the health workers. Fortunately, news spreads fast in Ugandan villages: with the help of community members and the head teacher of Otici Primary School, there were lots of people getting in lined to be tested for HIV. Many schoolchildren came down to listen to Dennis, one of the lab technicians, lecture them about family planning and reproductive health. Those 14 and above were able to stay to be tested, and most of them did! Apparently, blood screening does not mean that people are only being tested for HIV. There were immunizations, education, and antenatal care initiatives all taking place at the same time. During the antenatal care clinic, we got to watch Jackie, the midwife, do her routine check on pregnant mothers, and even got to feel the baby’s head and limbs and listen to its heartbeat!
While we experienced the eagerness of community members to know their status, we also experienced the apathy of many people about global health. The driver of the Ministry of Health truck had no patience. Blood screenings take a long time, and even more importantly, have to be extremely thorough in terms of counseling people about their status and testing those who want to be tested. This driver had no regard for good health practices and was trying to rush everyone along, saying that we need to go, even turning people away from being tested.
Luckily, the driver’s attitude was counteracted by the obvious passion of the health workers. Before the blood screening, Dennis taught us about detecting HIV in blood tests, which took about half an hour because he is quite the talker! We learned that sometimes the health professionals use up to three tests in order to verify results and that they counsel every patient about next steps, even if they are HIV negative. His dedication to his work was definitely evident in the way he talked to students, adults, and even to us. We ended the day feeling very happy that the blood screening was a success and that we had met such dedicated public health workers.