Today we had a meeting with Dr Michelle from Baylor. She has put us in charge of a DBS patient follow-up project. In Swaziland, when the babies are tested for HIV they have to wait 6 weeks for the results and many times the parents do not return to the clinic to fetch them. Therefore, there are a lot of babies who do not know their status and will die quickly without ARVs. They are setting up a program where Expert Clients (HIV victims who are role models in the community) go and fetch the babies and convince their mothers to bring them back to the clinic for treatment. Baylor received a grant for $20,000US to purchase cell phones, air-time, and to hire more Expert Clients in various communities. My job is to travel to these communities, identify possible Expert Clients, and identify local nurses who will be in charge of the logistics for each community. We have 10 sites to go to all over Swaziland. We also are conducting HIV surveillance pertaining to how many children from each community are tested for HIV and how many of those children result in a DBS test that is HIV+.
Today we went to Elangeni to check on the progress of Nomfundo and Sizolwetho’s window. Of course the children were in school, so we met with some of their half-siblings. Unfortunately, their father had multiple wives and when they all got infected with HIV and died; they left many young children behind. But, the window looks great! Now Nomfundo and Sizo can have light in their home and no rain can get in. We purchased enough cement so that they could also patch holes in other areas of their home too!! Thanks so much for the donations! Nomfundo and her twin sister wear their school uniforms everyday, even at home and on the weekends, because they have no clothing. I didn’t know how many more times we would get a chance to go to Elangeni because we are getting busy at Baylor, so I decided to give Nomfundo two bags of my clothing. Unfortunately, that means that the remaining time in Swaziland I will be wearing the same things over and over or borrowing Anne’s clothes. But at least Nomfundo will have some nice things to wear!!
Our American accent really trips people up here in Swaziland. (They speak British English). We wanted to go to Swazi Candles which is a large tourist attraction full of intricately made candles. The candles are made by local women and the profits go directly back to them. Anyway, we told the minibus driver that we wanted to go there and he thought we said SwaziCan which is a local canning company that cans jellies and fruits. What a disaster. We ended up having to take 3 different minibuses and walked 3km to get to our final destination. But, we made it.
In the evening we tutored the Taiwanese doctors in English again. It is actually a lot more fun than I thought it would be. The two that I tutor are much better in English than the ones Anne tutors. Today I taught them about the Traditional Healers and Nurses in Elangeni village. I taught them about some of the “cures” the traditional healers teach their patients and about the difficulties the nurses face trying to “un-teach” them. For instance, the traditional healers think that HIV can be cured by having sex with a virgin. Unfortunately, there are many of these Traditional beliefs that are false and are the driving force of the Swaziland HIV epidemic.
We woke up early to go to the Mbabane Catholic Church. The English service starts at 8am and it takes over an hour to walk there… Anne and I set the alarm for 6a… Yuck! But it was a nice mass and at the end the Priest said he wanted to thank all of the “out of town visitors” and asked if the “out of towners” would stand up to be acknowledged. Anne and I didn’t want to draw attention to ourselves, so we remained seated. SOMEHOW the people knew it was us he was referring to because everyone turned to face us and started clapping. There is no blending in for Anne and I here in Swaziland…