January 11 -  HIV and Leprosy Clinic

Part of the trip was clinical experience in a HIV/Leprosy Clinic located in the city of Hyderabad, India.  When we arrived to this clinic, we did not know we were actually there.  Due to cultural stigmas still existing in India against HIV, there was no sign for the clinic in an effort to remain anonymous.  We climbed two flights of concrete steps and entered a small room filled with voices of HIV patients and clinic staff singing during their morning worship where they prayed for hope, happiness, and health.  The women, children, and men at this clinic came from very low income, some of them lived in “shanty towns” or the slums. However, we would have never known that by looking at them. They were dressed in beautiful, colorful, and vibrant sarees and clothing and wore million dollar smiles.  After the worship session ended, the clinic split into its daily stations which included  a doctor's visit, pharmacy, and a counseling station.

I took a seat at a counselor's station and was shortly joined by a beaming women dressed in a modest lavender saree with bangles all up and down her arms.  This woman had been HIV positive for the past 9 years. She had two sons, 9 and 11 years old.  One son was HIV positive.   She had contracted HIV from her late husband and did not know she was infected until her husband had died and she was told by the doctor of his condition.  She was only a few years older than myself.  Despite this woman’s background story, which was very similar to most of the other women at the clinic that day, and current condition (her CD4 count was in the 300’s and she was experiencing night sweats, loss of appetite, body pains, and overall fatigue) she was beaming because she was giddy to be remarried in a month. After learning this information, I could not get over the overwhelming hope and resilience this woman possessed.

My involvement in this woman’s care came in when the counselor turned to me and said “She wants you to pray for her”.  I took that at first as “keep her in my prayers” or “pray along with her while the counselor led the pray”.  The counselor insisted however, that she wanted me to lead the prayer and pray for her health, longevity, and to give her hope.  I am not a very religious person and was at first uncomfortable by this request.  After seeing how important this was to her however, I placed my hand on her shoulder, bowed my head and spoke a short prayer which included all the things she had asked.  When the prayer was over, the twinkle in this woman’s smile and eyes was almost blinding. How happy my action made her was remarkable to me because she was not able to understand a single word I said (she only spoke the native language of Telugu).  I could not understand what she said but I could tell by her gestures she was thrilled I had prayed for her.  Hope and belief in a higher power was giving this woman the strength she needed to live with her HIV positive status.

Prior to this experience, I was not fully aware of the powerful impact nurses are able to have on the health of a patient without any “medical” interventions.  Praying for that woman gave me insight on how powerful simple words can be as nursing interventions. It also taught me to not overlook the mental/ spiritual needs of patients as those can sometimes get lost underneath meds to give, call bells to answer, and all the other nursing responsibilities that are all equally important.





Testing for Aids


pharmacy cabinet at the clinic