Update from the Field: HIV Clinic in Uganda

Amy Schumer '17
Amy Schumer ’17

July 18, 2014: Amy Schumer ’17
Time is speeding by and I can’t believe I’ve already been in Kampala for almost four weeks. This past week I did a bunch of different things.  At St. Stephen’s Hospital I shadowed Dr. Joseph, a general practitioner, who holds a weekly HIV clinic. We saw almost twenty patients during the morning and the majority were pregnant mothers or mothers with young children who are enrolled in a program that prevents maternal transmission of HIV. Mothers are started on anti-retroviral therapy as soon as they are pregnant and continue until the baby is 18 months old. The mothers receive several counseling sessions and the baby gets tested for HIV regularly. This seems like a great program and is really well organized.

Through Mulago Hospital I got the chance to attend an autopsy. I didn’t know what to expect and was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t too different from lab in my anatomy class at UVM College of Medicine. I was glad I had a mask to help filter out the strong smells and was shocked that the medical examiners don’t wear them. It served as a good review of anatomy and it was interesting to discuss the different findings in the body as the pathologist pieced together how the patient died. The pathologist suspected she died from tuberculosis but also took samples of each major organ to analyze by microscope. Next week we will see the slides and finish the investigation into her cause of death.

Today I had my first Luganda lesson through the International Office at Makerere University. The official language of Uganda is English but many people speak Luganda or one of several other local languages. While I wish I had known about the classes earlier, it was a good way to meet other international students and I learned several useful phrases to help interact with patients. Our Luganda teacher was very patient with us despite currently fasting for Ramadan, our horrible pronunciations, and the very hot weather. My two favorite phrases are sitegede (I don’t understand) and wasuze otya ssebo (Good morning sir).

I’m looking forward to seeing and learning as much as I can in my last two weeks here in Kampala. I will take home with me many great memories of the my host family, the hospital staff and patients, and a great deal of red dirt that has penetrated all of my clothing and turned my nasal mucus into clay.

Location: Kampala, Uganda
Length of Stay: 6 weeks
Name of Program: Global Health Elective with Dr. Majid Sadigh (UVM College of Medicine/Western Connecticut Health Network)


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