Friday, 8 January 2016

Venturing into moonlight clinics

The first time Emma was told to go and offer services in some of the biggest slum in Kampala, he was scared. TASO was rolling out a project to offer services to people living and working in HIV high risk areas. This service was named the Moonlight Clinics. 

During the Moonlight clinics, TASO staff had to go and offer services to Long Distance Truck Drivers, Sex workers and their clients, Men who have sex with Men and any other group that was easy to target at night under the moon light. These are groups of people who are hardly seen during the day due to the nature and stigma attached to their work and lives. The services offered included psychosocial support, HIV Testing and Counseling, referral to Public Health Facilities for further care and the medical team treated Opportunistic Infestions and Sexually Transmitted Infections.

Emma is just one of the many staff who went to Wandegeya, Katanga, Kalerwe, Nakulabye, Kibuye, Kabalagala, Nakawa and Gaba. He shared his story with me and now I share it with you. 

One of his first assignments was to find and talk to the group leaders to seek for permission to let TASO come in and offer free services. The leaders were very excited because they finally had someone to help their people. Emma says that as a Christian, he felt uncomfortable, but as an HIVcounselor, it was upon him to reach out to the Most at Risk Populations with HIV prevention messages and services. However, with time, he learned to distinguish between providing a service and what his potential clients did for a living. He says that he came to appreciate that as service providers, we have to treat those who require services regardless of their work.

On his very first walk through a lodge in Wandegeya, he nearly had all his clothes torn off him by the sex workers thinking that he was customer. He soon found out that that was not all. Many of his clients would be drunk or high on drugs and many times  paid only half attention to what he said, unless of course you gave them HIV positive results. Somehow HIV positive results sobered up a person  long enough to start paying attention.  

As a group of counselors, they had decided to print their phone numbers, first name and the word TASO Counselor on a piece of paper which they left in the care kit left with the client  so that when they are ready to seek help, they can contact Emma or one of the others for clarification or further help. 

In his words Emma says; 
"Many times we kept talking to them in the hope that at one point they will be sober enough to remember that someone talked to them about being tested for HIV and to seek for further support regardless of the test results."

TASO has since closed down the Moonlight clinic project, however, the clients enrolled during this programme were supported to form a group and start up other Income Generating Activities. Some still engage with the counselors they contacted and are still receiving ongoing support from TASO as long as they accepted to be registered as clients.

Emma's final words to his fellow counselors whether in or out of TASO is that;
"Distinguish between what clients in the Most At Risk Populations are and what they need. TASO encourages all staff to treat clients with dignity. These clients need good counseling, medical care and some one to give them hope for a different life. Several have started up other trades such as growing agricultural produce or hair saloon and are doing very well."

Thank you to Emma for sharing his experience.



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