Nigeria update

Frustrated. So frustrated. Apparently this is the common emotion amongst us MSFers. It’s what motivates us to move. To complain. To advocate! How can we run a PMTCT program without HIV tests? We ran out mid-November and apparently it’s not as simple as just calling the next town to borrow some. When they were planning on starting the program it really was uncertain as to what the uptake would be (woman are given a choice to opt out of the testing). But the acceptance has been beyond all expectations and when we are seeing more than 300 women in ANC/week, and have more than a 98% uptake, we flew through the supplies we had in the first couple months. So now we are waiting. Waiting for an urgent air cargo shipment of HIV tests to come through. If only I had known I would have stuffed my bag full of them when I came! That’s what I had written last week. But today, thankfully today all activities have resumed! It was really exciting to be able to tell Anna that the test kits were in and delivered to the lab. And even more exciting that all 25 women we tested today were negative. During the group pre test counseling that Anna gave, the women seemed really engaged in her health talk. At the end of the morning she translated for me what was going on (my Hausa is yet to be as fluent as I had hoped!). They were busy asking her about modes of transmission. One woman said that her son had found 100 Naira ($0.66 Cdn) on the ground, but she was worried that HIV might be on it, so she made him burn it! Anna was oh so happy to help correct some of the misconceptions around transmission. And so we’re now back on track. As I was watching the session I couldn’t help but compare what this would look like back home and how drastically different the scenes are. We generally have 80+ women sitting in front of us on benches, under a shade screen with Anna on the veranda of the building directing the ladies. Many of the women have a child wrapped on their back (yet to see a “Baby Bjorn” here!) and have come from a few minutes to few hours trek away. And then there are the goats…wandering in between the women’s legs as they stand up and walk to the end of the row to stand on a scale to be weighed. Fortunately it’s guava season and so the fragrant fruit smell is now permeating the waiting area. On a few side notes…I got to meet the quadruplets last week! They have definitely achieved celebrity status here at the clinic…there’s an immediate buzz on the grounds when they arrive. Jean, the midwife, called me over to introduce me to them. 2 girls and 2 boys…delivered at home by the mother herself, now 4 months old and looking quite beautiful. What are the chances of that? I’ll have to google… We’ve all been really enjoying watching the change in apparel as we move into harmattan season here (where the Saharan winds blow a fine layer of dust over everything and bring in some “cooler” weather). Apparently it’s winter (at a crisp daytime temp 30C with low of 20C at night) and so the staff are found donning their furry hats and winter jackets! It’s useless to try and describe a prairie winter night at this point. And unfortunately I’ve become really Hausa as I have found myself wearing a jacket in the early morning as well!

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