I recently attended an HIV/AIDS counseling training session held at my nursing school by two counselors from Makerere University. It was interesting to note the lack of organization the trainers seemed to have. Maybe it was just by appearance, but it seemed that they did not have an exact plan of what they would be presenting to the nursing students. There was continuous discussion between the trainers about what would be presented next and who would do the next segment of the training. This being said, the information presented was invaluable. The techniques needed to provide effective counseling is something all healthcare professionals should have at least a basic knowledge of. It was interesting to note that some of the students who were present at the training did not have even a basic understanding of the biology of HIV/AIDS. I spoke with one of the tutors during the first break about this issue, and he informed me that the students, broken up into groups based on when they began the program of study, went through different courses at different times. Apparently there is no set semester or term for when the students are given certain subjects. I’m not sure what the schedule it based on, maybe it is simply the availability of the lecturers.
Another noteworthy observation was the reaction of the students when the trainers discussed modes of transmission of HIV. While the students were very professional during discussion of intercourse, needle sharing, and oral sex, they were not very professional when discussions of “rubbing” and “finger fucking” were initiated. I also thought this specific terminology was slightly unprofessional when used by the trainers, but I suppose when doing outreach it is important for the participants to understand exactly what you are referring to, and with these terms, there is no question. The students erupted in laughter and giggles when these modes of transmission were discussed. Some students even gasped, as if horrified the trainers would even discuss such behavior. While I appreciate a sense of prudency in regards to sexual activity, it is important to be acquainted with sexual behavior if you are going to be a healthcare professional, especially when you are working in areas of high STI rates and high rates of HIV/AIDS. These are the things young people are doing; these are the behaviors that need to be changed in order to prevent HIV from spreading further. Without talking about it, how are we going to stop it?
On a less somber note, Martin Luther King Jr. Day has come and gone. It’s amazing what one person can do to change people, society, and to some extent, the world. On this day, we are all reminded of the famous speech and are often asked the question, what is your dream? I gave it some thought, and this would have to be my dream (admittedly influenced by the current novel I am reading, Mountains Beyond Mountains):
My dream is that all the people who need ARV medications to treat their HIV will be able to get them; those who need malaria prophylaxis and treated bed nets will get them; those who need food, water, and education will get them...my dream is that there be no more orphaned children due to HIV/AIDS, there be no more unnecessary deaths due to a treatable infectious disease…
In retrospect, I realized the use of “unnecessary” may imply that some deaths are necessary, which I do not endorse. I hope my dream does not sound cliché, naïve, or grandiose. When I think about what I want the world to be in the future, what I want my impact to be, in essense, what I want to do with my life, the words of Gandhi come to mind:
I do not want a kingdom, salvation, or heaven, what I want is to remove the trouble of the oppressed, the poor, and the needy. ~ Mahatma Gandhi
For my sermon this week, I used Mat 18:21-35:
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. "Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. "The servant fell on his knees before him. 'Be patient with me,' he begged, 'and I will pay back everything.' The servant's master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow-servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. 'Pay back what you owe me!' he demanded. His fellow-servant fell to his knees and begged him, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.' But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened. Then the master called the servant in. 'You wicked servant,' he said, 'I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow-servant just as I had on you?' In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart."
I feel like this is a very important passage to remember. We had all been wronged by people in our lives and often we hold it against them for a very long time. The most important thing we can learn to do is to forgive others. No matter what wrong has been done to you, it is important for you to forgive. It is not your place to judge and punish others because that is the work of God. So now, I ask of you, forgive anyone who has wronged you in the past, and remember to forgive those who will wrong you in the future. There is no sense in carrying around hatred and anger. The only thing that you should carry is love and peace. Let it be God who decides, in the end, do not let yourself be preoccupied by such things.