Today was one of the first days that I was actually angry and extremely annoyed at my inability to change the inequality and ridiculously flawed system here in South Africa. In class we discussed the methods of HIV prevention and treatment throughout the country and the history of how South Africans became aware of HIV&AIDS. Our professor, a previous EMT and Red Cross employee told us that many health professionals did not begin wearing gloves while handling blood and other fluids until 2005. The class stared around at each other and I personally was in awe. Coming from the USA with a mother that works in the healthcare system I was beyond shocked. Our professor also mentioned the lack of general education regarding the virus and the district of health did not even begin taking full statistics of the disease until 2001 when I am sure it had already become a huge problem throughout the country.
After briefly discussing this towards the end of class I could not stop thinking about what could be done to improve this system. They cannot even afford for everyone who has HIV to receive the proper ART or HAART treatment leaving many without the option of treatment until they are nearing the stages of AIDS. CD4 counts much reach as low as 200 before individuals are able to receive the proper drugs from their local clinic. This level is higher for pregnant women and children but is still extremely low since your immune system is so extremely compromised when reaching such low levels. Any infection, especially TB, is likely to attack your system multiplying the HIV cells and decreasing healthy white blood cells.
This class made me wish that I was able to understand more of the biology behind diseases such as HIV and TB and how exactly they effect the human body. Now is when I wish I was pre-med or doing something more involved with patients, especially after working at Victoria Hospital today.
Victoria Hospital is a secondary hospital that focuses mainly on surgeries and more serious cases including treatment for chronic diseases and patients with severe TB and HIV. They also have a specific ward for pediatric patients. One of the worst cases I saw today was an 8 year old who was extremely malnourished and had Cerebral Palsy. They had to switch him from a nasal feeding tube to a tube through his stomach.
I also discussed nutrition and health with the dietician I worked with which helped solidify my love for the subject though I wish that I had more interaction with patients dealing with obesity and nutritional deficiencies. I think that this experience, especially today, is making me realize that at least for now I would like to work directly with patients and then work towards the management/administrative side to healthcare which is a great discovery for me.
The only trouble I am dealing with now is what to do about the system and where to start--the entire healthcare system including other government agencies need to be restructured. It is the most frustrating thing I have ever dealt with and I am not even effected by it, I cannot imagine being one of the South African individuals without healthcare (the vast majority over 70%) and with a severe illness such as AIDS.