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Temporary Miracle

African Voices: Gertrude Nakigozi, MBChB

Gertrude Nakigozi, MBChB

Coordinator, Mobile Antiretroviral Clinic

Rakai Health Sciences Program

Photographed on January 10, 2006

In her small office in the Rakai Health Sciences Program headquarters in Kalisizo, Gertrude Nakigozi is organizing the day's paperwork for the mobile antiretroviral clinic. Outside, workers load canvas-topped silver and white Mitsubishi trucks with the mobile clinic's supplies and medications, including lifesaving antiretrovirals (ARVs). While the trucks are being readied, Nakigozi steals a moment to talk about her work.

“Most patients who come here perceive themselves to be HIV positive. The majority actually come in to confirm their suspicions. But still there are a few who are surprised by HIV-positive results. We let them know that being HIV positive does not mean they need ARVs. We try to educate them about CD4 counts and tell them they can always come back and receive treatment for any illness. You find a few patients who keep saying, Don't you think I'm ready for ARVs? Or they plead to have their CD4 counts retested. We resort to ARVs only when we have to.

One thing we try to do is not become too emotionally involved. You see patients suffer, and you get really touched. You try to detach your emotions from your work and do the best you can to make their conditions better. When I was in medical school, I had patients on the wards who were very poor and suffering. They didn't have money to buy medications. Their condition was hopeless. You didn't know what you could do to make their conditions better. You found yourself almost crying on their behalf.

Here, patients look at this funding for ARVs, and they have hope. If the funding is ever cut, they will have no hope.”

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