Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving everyone, I hope it was nice and delicious. With some boda riding, and major craziness, we managed to pull off thanksgiving and feed around 20 people. Here is how...

We had some dedicated people in our group who were insistent that we would cook a real thanksgiving meal, but we didn't have an oven. In order to cook a pie, pigs in a blanket, baked mac and cheese, green bean casserole, stuffing, pumpkin muffins, and I am sure I am missing some, a few people bodad to San Kofa, a place that we often eat at and used their oven while also helping them cook a thanksgiving meal for their costumers. Meanwhile, a lot of us stayed at our house cooking on two charcoal stoves and one gas stove. I personally, had two focus groups in the morning, and then went to the market several times to get food. I cooked Malakwang (it was mostly the woman who works here named Linda and I watched) and no bake cookies. Everyone else cooked some guacamole, beans, rice, chappati (that was bought but shhh), turkey (One girl got a turkey, brought it into our house, and then killed it in our backyard with  Linda when I was out), some more stuffing, and I am sure I am forgetting things again. In the end... we had too much food, and everyone was pretty happy with their meals.

Earlier that day I had my first focus groups. They went amazing because I had a 4th year medical student helping me translate. Along with helping me translate, he also helped rewrite many of my questions and really was personable so people would feel comfortable answering. I had one focus group of 6 males and one with 6 females. Their answers were very informative, and complete opposite of each other.

Anyways, I hope everyone had a great thanksgiving!

Oh, and theres only 23 days left...

Friday, November 18, 2011

Life is awesome sometimes.

I am so incredibly happy today, and here is why...

I met with my academic director this morning to get my research started. We started by taking tea, of course. He then showed me all of these articles on the stigmitization of HIV/AIDS here in Gulu and then gave me all of the statistics that are present here. Here are some statistics he told me... 1) The municiple district I am in has an HIV/AIDS prevelance rate of 1 in 4 (2) The barracks that contain Ugandan soldiers have a prevelance rate of 50% (3) A pub here called Buganda Pub on any given night would have a prevelance rate of over 70% (4) You go outside of this district, and the prevelance is 12%. First, that is insane... Second, it is also really messed up. I asked Dr. David why the prevelance is so high and he explained that it was because Kampala sends their infected soldiers here to Gulu, where it is then spread to the rest of Gulu. I am not sure if the government does this on purpose, but either way, it is not okay.

So that isn't why I think life is awesome sometimes... this is why...

I have been dealing with some added B.S. from the US on an action I participated in last May. I was protesting AIDS budget cuts to PEPFAR. I have been doubting my action ever since there has been all of this extra drama from the US court, but today made me really happy to have done the action. I was speaking the the head doctor of the Infectious Disease Clinic and she asked me where I was from.... I said the US. She then looked at me and said "Oh, you guys scared us this year when you were deciding the budget for PEPFAR". I asked her how the cuts would have affected her unit (it is a government unit), she said they would have had to cut staff by half, and may not even have been able to keep it running. I then told her how I participated in an action against it, and she gave me a big hug and said thank you.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Let's blog it up...

It is ISP time! Yay! What is my project you may be asking? Well, I was hoping you could answer that for me. Just kidding...

This is part of my proposal because I am lazy and don't feel like rewording it.
The Effects of ARV Treatment on Patients’ Risky Sexual Behavior in Post-Conflict Northern Uganda


Uganda is often looked at as a model for HIV/AIDS reduction because of their very successful campaign to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The campaign started in the late 1980s, and has lost momentum since then. Currently, the HIV/AIDS prevalence is increasing at an alarming rate despite the increase in access to life-saving ARV treatment. Antiretroviral drugs have changed the perception of AIDS from a death sentence to a treatable, manageable disease. This change in the perception may have reduced the fear surrounding HIV; therefore, it could have led to an increase in risky sexual behavior. The research that will be conducted will look at the perception of HIV/AIDS and how the perception changes sexual behavior.


The history of HIV/AIDS in Africa has three distinct phases. The first stage was the rapid increase of HIV/AIDS in urban areas and areas along highways; especially in the Lake Victoria region. Doctors’ in this area began to call this disease “slim disease” because it caused people’s bodies to waste away. The first official diagnosis of AIDS came in 1982 and doctors’ quickly linked “slim disease” to HIV/AIDS. In 1986, when the civil war ended and President Museveni came into power, the first major HIV prevention program was founded. Unfortunately, HIV/AIDS had become an epidemic by this time and affected 30 percent of people. In 1987, the first AIDS control program was set up to educate the citizens of Uganda on the ABC approach (abstain, be faithful, use condoms) to preventing HIV/AIDS. The program also ensured safety of blood supply and started HIV/AIDS surveillance. There was very strong political leadership that committed itself to ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Along with the strong government programs to stop the epidemic, many grass-roots programs began. TASO, a community-based organization was formed in the late 1980s along with The AIDS Support Organization.
The second phase of the HIV/AIDS epidemic ran from 1992 to 2000. During these years the HIV prevalence fell from 30 percent to 5 percent. The decline was due in part to the ABC prevention method and the grass-roots movements. A majority of the reason is said to be because there was little treatment available, so the high-numbers of HIV/AIDS patients simply died out in this time period. In 1998, the Ugandan government ran a test trial to see if it was feasible to provide HIV/AIDS treatment to developing countries.
The third phase of HIV/AIDS in Uganda is the rise in HIV/AIDS prevalence. In 2004, free ARVs (antiretroviral drugs) were made available in Uganda. In 2006 the prevalence of HIV/AIDS jumped from about 5 percent to 7 percent. There are two popular theories to why the sudden increase in HIV/AIDS prevalence. The first theory is that Uganda’s shift away from ABC and towards abstinence might have caused the increase. The second theory is that ARVs have made HIV/AIDS a treatable, livable disease so people have lost the ambition to practice safe-sex.
The Problem Statement
The recent increase in ARV distribution in post-conflict Northern Uganda has also been met with an increase in HIV/AIDS prevalence. This could be attributed to a new misperception of HIV/AIDS as a minor life-long illness rather than a death sentence that HIV/AIDS used to be a mere ten years ago.


The reason of this research is to determine the cause of the steady increase in HIV/AIDS prevalence in post-conflict Northern Uganda. The data collected will be used to provide information on how to improve the use and distribution of ARVs. If risky sexual behavior is a cause to the rise of HIV/AIDS further research will have to be done on how to provide a more multifaceted treatment program that would target the issue of risky sexual behavior.

On to ISP time...

I am living with all the other students in a house near a place called Acholi Inn. I have been cooking which is fun. We had family dinner night where we attempted eggplant parmesan with pasta and no-bake cookies for desert. It went well. Last night we made mexican Acholi food, which meant chapati, rice, beans, and a gauc salsa... Delishhh.

I am heading home in a month and am really excited to see my mom and dad and my new kittens they got the day after i left which I am still bitter about, and of course my sister (but most important in this group is the kittens... just kidding family). I am going to cook dinner for them and start helping out around the house... now since it is in writing and announced to everyone who reads this it will be done.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Millenium Village Whaaa Whaa?

Yesterday, 96% of us went to the Millenium Village here in Rwanda (I like using percentages that may or may not be completely incorrect to make myself sound more legitimate). What is the Millenium Village you may be asking yourself? No worries, I got your back...

The Millenium Village project was started by the Earth Institute at Columbia University under the guidance of Jeffrey Sachs. The village project uses the eight Millenium Goals to frame its objectives (end hunger/poverty/HIV, TB, Malaria, other dieseases/ reduce maternal and child mortality/ promote education and gender equality and global partnership/ ensure environmental sustainability). It uses evidence-based techniques to bring one village to complete the Millenium Development Goals. See its website/wikipedia for more information...

To get a tour of the village it costs 30 USD... I was surprised in its overly touristy feel. We had a tour guide take us to meet of the village's farmers, the medical facility, basket weaving women, and in the end we saw traditional dances. At first, I was incredibly dissapointed that the entire village and everyone in it had become a tourist attraction... I still don't know how I feel about it.

Something did change that made me happy with my visit. Once you got past the overly touristy feel, I could see something I have yet to see here in my stay... a sense of genuine happiness and peace. The village is determined to bring unity to the survivors of genocide and the perpetrators. I thought this was impossible, and though I was only there for five hours... there was this sense of peace. What gave me this feeling? I honestly could not tell you... Mostly because there was no specific instance or thing that made me feel this... It was just there.