27 November 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

Our Thanksgiving celebration began with a mass organized by Sister Valentine. My friends and i went into the mass a little leery about how long it would be (Pumpkin Pies were in the oven, waiting to be eaten! Mass in Uganda can be 3 hours!--don't judge me too harshly people.) To begin with, we were the only 6 participants, until, in true Ugandan fashion, people began trickling in after it started. Before we arrived at mass, we were asked to write the intentions so to begin mass, Father Edward pulled out the handwritten list, stumbled over my poor handwriting and proceeded to pray for our community in Uganda and America. My friend John, from the east, read the first reading from the Book of the Apocalypse. We listened to tales of the end times and tried to look forward to things to be thankful for. The rest of the Thanksgiving Mass was taken from a 1984 American Prayerbook that Father found somewhere since Ugandan Prayerbooks don't include Thanksgiving. He apologized after mass for the old edition and promised that a newer version was on its way!

The homily was about how Americans say thank you and Ugandans don't. After mass we found ourselves exclaiming our disagreement! Ugandans do say thank you. They always express their gratitude and appreciation. They just also include a request for more of whatever they received, especially from foreigners. Walking down the village roads, i see moms telling their children to run up to us to ask for money or sweeties. It's something they're taught from childhood, that foreigners have money and they want to share it. It's mostly true. I appreciated Sister Valentine's desire to show her love and support for our American holiday, traditions and our friendships, in ways she knows how to express her committment to friendship, in this instance through a Thanksgiving mass.

For more exciting stories from Thanksgiving 2010, visit: Amanda's Blog

07 November 2010


World AIDS Day is coming up, 1 December. And in our Life Skills classes we've just finished the learning activities on HIV/AIDS. The class at the university goes in-depth about transmission, immune system response, origin, stigma, myths, and healthy living. The Life Skills class at the vocational school is a little more basic, focusing on transmission and debunking the popular myths that float around about why or how people get HIV/AIDS in Uganda. I thought I'd share some of the general information:

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS)

There are four main fluids that transmit HIV: blood, semen, vaginal fluids and breast milk. These fluids can pass through mucous membranes (on genitals, nose, eyes, mouth, anus) and through cuts or openings in your skin. (Sweat and tears do not carry HIV; saliva has such trace amounts that you would have to swallow liters of it to be at a small risk; cerebrospinal fluid carry trace amounts as well.)

HIV can be passed on by:

1. Having sex without a condom
2. Contact with infected blood
3. Injecting drugs/re-using needles
4. Mother to child (during pregnancy, during delivery or during breast feeding)

HIV targets the CD4 helper cell (the part of the immune system that coordinates defense.) After some crazy cellular moves, HIV gets the CD4 cell to replicate its viral DNA INSTEAD of its normal function (defending the body and producing other CD4 cells.) CD4 counts determine how compromised your immune system is.

Without Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ART or ARVs), eventually the amount of HIV will almost fully suppress the immune system, (the person now has AIDS), leaving the body susceptible to death from many different types of infections or AIDS-related cancers.

The most accepted theory is that humans first got HIV from chimpanzees in Cameroon in the mid 1900's. These chimps had Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV) and the virus was transferred to humans probably through hunting or eating chimp meat.

(There are many different theories and time lines of HIV origin, please take a minute to check online for more information.)

MYTHS:(these are not true)
There is a cure for HIV/AIDS and its only available to people in the Western nations
If you have sex with a virgin, you can be cured of HIV/AIDS
You can get HIV/AIDS from hugging or kissing someone with HIV/AIDS

Two thirds of all HIV infections occur in sub-Saharan Africa. In Uganda, the first AIDS cases were reported in the early 1980s, it was known as the "slimming" disease because of the wasting away of the body of most people who had it. Today, about 1.1 million people in Uganda have HIV/AIDS.

I could keep unloading lots of terrible numbers about the situation here, but suffice it to say it affects everyone. Unfortunately, the numbers are on the rise, mostly in married couples. The feeling is that Ugandans are accustomed to hearing about HIV and have become desensitized about its effects.

At the end of 2006 about 1.1 million people were living with HIV. In 2008 Texas had 2, 924 people living with AIDS, making Texas the fourth highest state with people living with AIDS (after California, Florida and New York.) It’s estimated that about 53,000 Americans become infected with HIV each year.

Please take a moment to visit the following websites for more information: