The following is an update from Tanzania submitted by Catherine Brown (CHE).
Time has simply evaporated in Dar es Salaam. It’s hard to imagine that I have now been living here for over two weeks. It feels like only yesterday that we arrived. In a short period of time, we have learned and experienced so much.
By Sunday, June 17, all nine members of our inter-professional team had arrived. Our group comprises of three nursing students, one pharmacy student, four medical students, and myself, a community health and epidemiology student. Some members are well traveled, while for others, this is their first time leaving North America. While most us were strangers upon arrival, we have quickly become a close-knit group.
We spent the first week in intensive Kiswahili lessons. Our teacher was patient with us as we struggled to learn this language. Kiswahili is highly structured (like French), but full of foreign sounds that took some time to become comfortable pronouncing. I enjoyed our time as a Kiswahili mwanafunzi (student), and it only took me a few days to realize that ninaipenda Tanzania (I love Tanzania). From my short time here, I have gathered from the generous people, the delicious curries, the warm beaches, and the lively quarters that Dar es Salaam is an exciting and rewarding place to live.
On June 22nd, half our group departed on a ten-hour train ride to Ifakara in Central Tanzania. There, they will be shadowing health care professionals in a rural hospital. The remaining five us our were placed at PASADA (Pastoral Activities and Services for Oeople with AIDS Dar es Salaam Archdiocese) – a faith-based NGO that offers medical care and social services for people living with HIV.
Tanzania has an HIV prevalence rate of 5.7% in the sexually active adult population, and in the neighborhoods surrounding PASADA, the prevalence is even higher. PASADA services over 30,000 clients at various locations across Dar es Salaam. It boggles my mind to grasp that given Canada has approximately 65,000 individuals living with HIV, PASADA’s population alone – just one of many similar organizations in Tanzania – approximates half of Canada’s epidemic.
We have received an incredibly warm welcome from the staff and clients at PASADA. On different days, students in our group have shadowed a variety of health care professionals – nurses, doctors, pharmacists, counsellors, and lab technicians to name a few – to learn more about HIV and how it is managed in Tanzania. I look forward to sharing more about our experiences at PASADA over the next few entries.