Practicum Month 4: Inspiration ahead of the AIDS Conference

Another day in the life of Pancho Mulongeni, student and researcher at the University of Cape Town, just went by. And what an exciting day it was. I cannot possibly elaborate on it all, but suffice it to say, now that I am waiting for my mini-dissertation feedback, I find myself at a loss of things to do.

So this morning I wrote to a potential supervisor in Biostatistics. Here my researcher hat was on and I felt I was potentially missing out on a big opportunity – to do my PhD here at the University of Cape Town, because one of the major funding deadlines is looming. So this is what it means to be a researcher, one is always aware of looming deadlines. But should that be crippling and debilitating? The email from the potential supervisor starts with the word “Thanks for your email. Your proposed project is outside the scope…” I will read it later.

I just came back from lower-main road, a street lined with bars and cafes that attracts an artsy clientelle. And I happened to bump into a film maker (theatre maker, I cannot recall), named Sue. Since I was friendly enough to talk to her, commenting on a band that would play at another cafe down the road, she introduced herself “Hi I am Sue”. What ensued was a conversation about research – research that I do on young people and adolescents. How precious that research was in her eyes, “What do we know about Tuberculosis in young people and why do they stop attending TB care?” I told her about what we had found out in the study on drop-out of TB care.I mentioned the findings were not surprising, except for one – those who are HIV positive are also more likely to drop out. “Why is that?”she probed and I had to concede we just did not know. She then asked “Well are they more likely to drop out of HIV treatment too?” I also had no answer to that, but of course one can presume the answer would be affirmative. Yet it sparked a though in me. Why have not looked at differences in drop out for those who were already on antiretroviral treatment, those who were not on treatment and compared them to HIV negative patients? One could perhaps see a gradient in the effect of drop out – with those who were never on ART having a higher odds of drop out. I will run the analysis tomorrow morning.

I was humbled when she told she worked in one of the first AIDS clinics in Cape Town. She then went on to recount the story of her friend, a doctor who contracted HIV at age 24. He passed on. Moment of silence in the blog.

“He is from Namibia” were the words I heard her say as I walked down the street, the sound receding behind me of her account to her friends.

What an amazing night.


About writinghealth

Wannabe Epidemiologist? Wannabe med anthro person? I guess. Christian, scientist (not Christian scientist), i mean like I studied molecular biology and I part of the RC Church. I also completed a Masters of Public Health, at the University of Cape Town, in Epidemiology and Biostatistics.
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