Collins Vumiria discovers why Uganda’s traditional birth attendants are being sidelined in the fight against HIV.
Earlier this month I asked Uganda’s minister of state in charge of primary health care, Dr Emmanuel Otaala, why traditional birth attendants – who deliver tens of thousands of babies each year – seem to play little part in HIV awareness and prevention or in the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of the virus.
It had been on my mind since I met an experienced traditional birth attendant (TBA) who told me she last attended a workshop on HIV counselling in 1992. Hasifa Nalwoga Ssenkayo is 52 years old and with two years of schooling behind her has been working as a birth attendant since 1976.
A mother of ten, Hasifa’s workplace has 14 make-shift beds. She operates in a crude environment where everything is improvised. She knows something about HIV and advises women to go for HIV tests after she delivers their babies. But from her answers to some of my questions it was clear she was confused about how the virus could be diagnosed and would benefit from more training.
In fact Hasifa had asked for just that. She told me she had been to the nearest general hospital looking for collaboration with the medical team to improve her services “but failed to get through”.