Do you want to learn more about HIV/AIDS and public health education? Do you like to work as a part of an interprofessional team? The Global Health Office’s Tanzania Summer Program offers the opportunity to learn first-hand about the Tanzanian health care system through placements with our partner, Pastoral Activities and Services for People with AIDS Dar es Salaam Archdiocese (PASADA). While at PASADA, students experience an innovative community-based model for providing HIV and AIDS services while working with highly-skilled Tanzanian staff. This post offers reflections from students currently participating in this program.
When we arrived in Dar, we found the city to be very busy and a bit daunting. The people are extremely friendly, but experiencing so many people and sights we were not accustomed to was overwhelming. The daladala is still an adventure for us each time.
Our Kiswahili classes were challenging but went by quickly. Our instructor was very interactive. Four days of classes allowed us to learn some of the basics but many people we meet like to test us on our Swahili skills, allowing us to practice and improve everyday. Since the majority of people (including patients) do not speak English, it is beneficial to at least know the fundamentals of the language.
On the last day of our language lessons, we had a slight scare when Luke came down with a fever on our way home from school. When it didn’t resolve by that evening, we decided to go to the hospital so he could be tested for malaria. Fortunately, his malaria smear came back negative, and it was back to normal three days later.
The following week, we began out placement at PASADA. Immediately, we were thrown into the swing of things: we learned about the information cards used to manage patient care and different baseline investigation tests, observed HIV antibody testing and routine blood work procedures in the laboratory, and learned about drug therapy combinations used for treating HIV. It took us the first week to get accustomed to the routine of the clinic.
When we arrived on Monday during our second week, the doctor in charge of the clinic had prepared individual schedules for each of us. We have been rotating through five clinic areas: antiretroviral therapy, prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, paediatrics, tuberculosis treatment and prevention, and home based palliative care. We have gained a lot if knowledge and exposure to HIV medicine through our experiences. The staff and volunteers at the clinic have been very welcoming and accommodating.
Last Thursday we jointly delivered a presentation to the staff at PASADA. We discussed what we have learned during our placement and how our new experiences compare and contrast with those we have had in the Canadian healthcare system. We also presented statistics about HIV in Canada and described how HIV patients are managed in a Canadian setting. An important topic we discussed was the role culture plays in HIV/AIDS epidemics, highlighting differences between Tanzanian and Canadian culture, especially with regard to education around safer sex practices.
We can hardly believe we are about to start the last week of our placement. We all feel we have gained a lot from being here and look forward to bringing some of that insight back to our respective practices in Canada.
Alex, Chris, Stephanie, and Luke