We took 11 kids Thursday for HIV testing.
We chose a private clinic in Chipata that we have used before. We brought the kids including 2 of the older guys that had been tested last time. I told them unfortunately no swimming party this time. They laughed but I said when it gets hot again we will have them over. They heard they were going again and asked if they could be checked again. This ended up being a good thing because of the other kids they were all younger ones and then the oldest 21 year old. So I was glad for him that he ended up not being the only old one.
We brought all the kids in the waiting room and then numbered our own paper and wrote the kids names down corresponding with the numbers for the test. They started with the first one to take a vial of blood form the arm. I stopped to ask about the finger prick test that we had done last time with the other kids and what seems to be commonly done at many clinics. I was thinking taking blood from 11 kids arms might not go over too well. So they said yes we can do the other test that is fine, he was confused and thought we needed CD4 counts on all the kids.
He did the first kid and then proceeded to start to the second. I then asked about using gloves. He said, ok and got a pair of gloves. I mentioned I wanted him to get a new pair for each kid and he said ok. So then as he started on the third child he still had on the same gloves from child number 2. I leaned over to Maureen and said, “I know he is not going to like me, but the point is to use a clean pair of gloves for each child.” She nodded and then told him. He stopped what he was doing and then told his assistant to go and find a box of gloves. He came back with a box and then proceeded to change out his gloves each time for the kids.
It was a difficult moment, not wanting to be a bother to the guy but at the same time knowing that certain standards must be met especially dealing with blood of people we are not aware of are negative or positive. So, for that reason I threw any fears of being the annoying muzungu ( since I knew I already was) and went ahead and spoke up.
We finished and the results were given which did not end up being accurate.
One of the children that is positive and on medication was shown to be negative along with every other child. Because that was the case we then explained to the doctor that how could we trust the results for everyone else. He said we could do the test again, maybe it was the solution they put on the test strips or what, but at that point, we just said thank you and paid for the tests.
It was very frustrating because it takes awhile to get everything and everyone lined up for the tests and to one by one get each kids blood taken, but we wanted accurate results so we decided to go to another clinic where we have a bit more confidence in the doctor, still within Chipata/Kabanana.
So Maureen explained to the kids we needed to take them to another clinic and so they all piled back in the cars and we stopped on the way to get some bananas for a snack for them. They were troopers!
Once at the next clinic, the doctor prepared to take vials of blood from the children’s arms. We were unsure of this at first, since it is more involved than the finger prick but he explained the accuracy for this type of test and we agreed.
We started with the older 3 young men and then proceeded to the younger kids.
I had to write the names of each child down and then number them and he numbered the vials accordingly. The first little one that came in started to refuse to have her blood taken and the doctor said, well its ok we can just do it another day or I can just do the finger prick... etc. I explained, well if this is the best way to tell and the most accurate, yes they don’t want it done but they will be fine. For each of the younger ones then they came in Fanny held their arm out for the doctor and they sat on my lap and turned their face away. Out of all the kids the bravest boy was also the youngest, Steven 7 years old. He did better than the 18 and 20 year old.
Just to give you an idea about the “conditions”, I mentioned to this doctor about needing to make sure he changed his gloves each time and he agreed and said oh yes that is important. Well I wasn’t watching each time but I did notice one specific child seemed to bleed more and he got the blood on his gloves. He did not change them and had tied the next kids arm off with the rubber glove and was about to draw the blood when I mentioned it to him. “Oh yes, I just forgot” he said. AHH...
Again you hate to be a pain, but how important this is.
One time one of the kids was taken to a clinic and I was told after the fact that a used needle was used for his shot. We have to really watch them and be an advocate for these kids health. At the first clinic I said, “I will pay for a box of gloves if I need to”. I am not sure if it is the cost so much as it is just the medical people working in these poor areas and clinics are not taught and educated and therefore don’t seem to see the urgency and importance of the matter.
We finished the kids testing and then drove back to the church for the kids to eat their lunch. The results were not going to be ready for a few hours so Maureen and Fanny went back to collect the results.
Out of the 11 kids, one of them we already knew was positive, there was an additional child that was also positive. That was difficult and we then made plans the following day to go and talk to all the guardians and give them the results.
We spoke to the grandmother who was obviously troubled by the news and confused. Even though the father had died with something AIDS related, the mother had said to the grandmother that she had been tested and was ok. That then brought the grandmother to ask, “how then can a child get it”.
Some hard questions, which maureen and fanny had to try and explain.
The challenge we find is that because no one wants to admit they have it, they often lie about testing or even the results. We saw this with Mrs. Tembo. She lied to the doctor and said she was tested and was fine when we took her son Wisdom in for testing a year and a half ago.
We are now waiting for the mother to be told the news by the grandmother before we can tell the boy, he is 13 years old and has a brother from the same mother who currently came up negative.
So please pray for this situation. It is certainly sad and hard. Before we went out to speak to them we all prayed together and I encouraged Maureen and Fanny to make sure that when we speak to him since they will be speaking the native language that he knows it is not his fault, he didn’t do anything wrong and that it is not a shameful thing.
We assured the grandmother that all these things are kept confidential so that other kids in the program and guardians do not know the status of other kids. We encouraged her with how well she is taking care of her grandson and that he is doing great in the program.
Please pray specifically for the boy, as he will be finding out for himself and I am sure will have alot of questions and wrestling to deal with as he is at a very tender age already, being a teenage boy raised by his grandmother.