Thursday, June 9, 2011

Hello from the town of Kalisizo

On Tuesday morning we drove down from Kampala, the bustling capital of Uganda, to Kalisizo, the town in which we will be spending our summer while interning at an HIV/AIDS research and treatment center, the Rakai Health Sciences Program (RHSP).  Over Tuesday and Wednesday we settled into our accommodations (a lovely guest house), went on a tour of the various units at RHSP, met our summer supervisors and discussed our projects, and even went dancing in the nearest town with our new co-workers.  After all that activity it was nice to get a day off today - it is the Ugandan national holiday of Heroes Day, an event commemorating heroes of the guerrilla war of the early 1980s.  Below check out our new digs and what we've been up to.  Photos by Oh MG and Leigh Bernstein.

On our drive south we crossed over the Equator.  Nothing like having one foot in the northern hemisphere and one in the south.

This is our new street.  RHSP is about a ten minute walk away and we are staying in a guesthouse used to house visiting researchers.  There is a lovely housekeeper named Tao here who makes our meals and takes great care of us.

Overview of our new neighborhood.  RHSP employers over 400 people and is comprised of a series of buildings which include a state of the art lab, clinic, operating theater, research library, and the offices of many researchers.  Here we are following our guide Goretti on a tour of all the facilities.  The town of Kalisizo is small and dotted with houses that are nestled among banana, papyrus, and corn crops.

Blood samples waiting to be analyzed in one of the RHSP labs.  Not only is blood taken to ascertain someone's HIV status, but patients receiving antiretroviral treatment (ART) have their blood consistently tested to monitor CD4 levels and have their treatment regimens modified.

Part of our tour included a trip through the operating theaters for which we had to don scrubs.  Looking good, aren't we!

A sign directing patients to the clinic where hundreds of people receive ART as well as medicine for opportunistic infections that are a side effects of HIV (like TB and malaria).  The biggest clinic is here in Kalisizo but RHSP also runs 13 satellite clinics in various villages, some of which are much more rural.  My project this summer will consist of traveling to the various clinics and talking to service providers and patients about their experiences ... and then doing qualitative analysis and writing a big report on what I find.

Me, Elizabeth, and Rachel in front of our house.  Two of us have rooms on the left and two of us have rooms on the right.

The bandas, lovely thatched-roofed and open-air structures in the middle of the RHSP compound.  Many meetings are held there and we have been told we can use them as our offices for the summer - not a bad place to work!

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