Thursday dawned damp and miserable as all other mornings had since arrival in Kabale. Although it was not actually raining (yet) so we piled into the bus, determined to run something resembling a festival as it was also testing day, just! Manny and I had spent quite some time confirming Positive Living’s (the local health NGO) attendance the previous day, as despite many assurances by those concerned it wasn’t sorted.
We arrived at the field to find that yesterday’s schools football matches had turned it in to the local mud wrestling pit; furthermore one of the local girls’ football teams were there to practice. After a quick conversation with the very supportive headteacher, we put this year’s team mantra into practice – adapt and overcome!
Using the small areas around the actual school we soon had children playing games and having fun – not standard CWB festival day fayre but……
While waiting for the Positive Living, to come and set up their testing station, small pockets of activity started in every available space, catching, batting, bowling stations just appeared as if from nowhere and I started to hear laughter around the place.
When the NGO finally arrived, they quickly set up and I started to line up children. Once information was collected about each child, a small pinprick and a few minutes wait, meant that each child tested knew their status. This is really important because if they have acquired HIV, counselling and lifelong medication is available to them. It was clear to me the majority of these children had not been tested previously; now they are in the system and they will have access to repeat testing – hugely important to keep them healthy in the future. There is still a big stigma around being tested and it was really inspiring to see one teacher and the queue of children at the testing station.
One girl of about 12 years approached the team, visibly upset and asked what does negative mean? We spent time with her to explain the difference between positive and negative, but she struggled to understand. She began to cry, thinking that negative meant she had HIV. Once we explained that negative meant she does not have HIV her tears of distress clearly turned to tears of joy and relief. It made us realise that we need to be extremely clear about the information we are giving and the understanding from the children. We were then able to reinforce the ABC-T messages with her individually
Meanwhile, I noticed the sun had come out…….and once we packed up, I was told that of 66 children tested, 1 was positive (provisional figures) and I hope this means we have changed this child’s life for the better!