A mere decade ago, I too was an adolescent and a very nerdy, geeky, one at that. I had a great number of dreams, I did reasonably well at school and university. All of this was possible because I was in good health. I am so privileged to have been the first IAVI 6 month fellow on adolescent health at DTHF. With the necessary health, adolescents have the potential to contribute the economic growth and bring about a demographic dividend in sub-Saharan Africa, I learnt.
I am now writing to you from Windhoek, Namibia, where I began this journey just over 6 months ago. I want to just briefly report back on the experience. I choose brevity, because I could write several volumes on my experience and I am not sure this will be of interest to anyone.
Before, I was just a public health student. Now I had hands on experience with conducting a research study, liaising with researchers, talking to policy people and presenting at international conferences. By means of example, the paper I have worked since I began the fellowship – the Tuberculosis study – facilitated this process. One thing I learnt that I wish to keep is the writing style. When writing for an academic journal, you leave out the advocacy. But one can bring that in at other occasions, such as blog posts. Here is what I want to say – its not enough to just claim young people are important. Governments need to step up their efforts to make sure no young person falls through the cracks, especially in the case of tuberculosis. Thinking back, one of my first experiences at the TB clinics here in Windhoek was seeing a young man outside the clinic, he could not have been older than 15 and must have had TB, because he was emaciated. We should not see that every again anywhere.
Second, I realized – go with my passion. I discovered during the training for an implementation science project I attended that I really wanted to do something for transgender adolescents. And I have had the opportunity to meet leaders in the field of providing competent health services to transgender persons, at the AIDS conference. I hope to now also bring that project to fruition, but sourcing the mPowerment manual for young transgender women.
Finally, I am grateful for the support I received from DTHF. It really has been so easy – from the flights, to my accomodation and attendance of international AIDS conference. I would then give the fellowship organization an A. My only wish is that I had more of an experience of the different interventions in the communities where DTHF works. I did manage to visit the TB clinic on one occasion and attend training at Crossroads, but I missed out on the youth center and emavundleni. Granted, I did have a chance to attend when the team from IAVI came to the organization, so maybe I should have gone when I had the chance.
Nevertheless, let me continue to seize the day here.