Greetings from Kampala

I’m in Kampala, Uganda for a two-day meeting on male circumcision for HIV prevention, organized by the Forum for Collaborative HIV Research and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. There are people here from all over Africa and the rest of the world to discuss the topic. Circumcision is a hot subject right now, after 3 randomized controlled studies showed that it reduced female to male transmission by about 50 percent.

It was a long trip over here: Boston to Chicago, Chicago to Brussels, Brussels to Bujumbura (that’s the capital of Burundi in case you were wondering) and then on to Entebbe, the international airport outside of Uganda’s capital, Kampala, which is mostly known as the site of a daring rescue by the Israel Defense Forces in 1976. Shockingly everything on my trip went smoothly and 30 hours after leaving my house I was at my hotel.

My preparation for the trip began a few weeks ago. Although my primary care physician didn’t think I needed to take any precautions, I decided to second guess him and visit the BIDMC’s travel clinic, where I was persuaded to get the Yellow Fever vaccine, typhoid vaccine and to take malaria prophylaxis. I think it was the right thing to do.

I had read on Uganda’s website that a visa could be obtained upon arrival at Entebbe, but I had a scare late last week when I was told by conference organizers that a visa had to be obtained ahead of time. It was too late to send my passport away, so I called the Uganda embassy in Washington, which told me that it was “advisable” to get the visa beforehand because I might be denied boarding by my airline otherwise. I then called American Airlines and was assured that all would be ok. Still, I was nervous because I was transferring to Brussels Airlines once I got to Europe. Thankfully there was no problem and I obtained my visa upon arrival, just like several other people. It didn’t even take any extra time.

When we landed in Bujumbura it was almost completely dark all around. It’s pretty shocking compared to landing in a US, European or Asian destination. I saw a mosquito on the plane, buzzing around my seat. I really don’t want to get malaria so I put on some DEET that I brought along.

When we landed at Entebbe there were plenty of bugs flying around between the plane and the terminal and in the terminal itself. I met up with a couple of other people attending the conference and a driver took us to our hotel, about 40 minutes away. Apparently that road is choked up during regular hours. Luckily it was about midnight when we arrived.

The Kampla Serena Hotel where I’m staying is first rate. Only problem is that they were overbooked. Somehow I got a room and my two companions were shunted off to a nearby, lower class place. Actually, I’m quite sure there was at least one more room available, and that the manager was lying to us. That’s because he first tried to get the other man in our group and me to share a room, saying there were two double beds. However, my room has a king bed. I really wonder whether this hotel wants to upset the Gates Foundation. It may not be a wise move.

Anyway, my room is very modern except that it lacks a clock. Otherwise it has all the amenities including A/C, two desks, wireless and wired Internet access, fancy bathroom, balcony, etc. In the bathroom there is a can of insect killer. First I sprayed it into the air over my bed, then a few minutes later I saw a mosquito in the bathroom and blasted it out of the sky with the same spray. (I had to hit him twice.)

By the time I got to bed it was about 2 am local time, and I had to get up a few hours later. Fortunately, I feel pretty good today and don’t think any mosquitoes bit me while I was asleep.

March 13, 2008

4 thoughts on “Greetings from Kampala”

  1. Good Luck avoiding the mosquitos! Ever since a brief trip through Kazakhstan, I have been very allergic to Asian mosquitos and am thus quite paranoid about them even in non-malarial regions.

    My advice would be to never wear shorts or go sockless, keep moving around when outdoors, and spray deet on any exposed skin as well as the outer layer of your clothing. I have been bitten through my pants before, so clothing isn’t a failsafe barrier.

    I have also been known to sleep with the sheet pulled up over my head, or a fan blowing over the bed so they can’t land. Probably overkill for me, but perhaps not for you!

  2. Three controlled trials on circumcision and HIV do not add up to one proper double-blind study. As the Kenya, Uganda, and South Africa trials were all authored by people with a long history of justifying circumcision, be wary.

    The three trials were all conveniently halted early while the infection rates in the cut and uncut populations were still converging (following the cut men’s post-surgical period of abstinence).

    The published results are contradicted by some others. The 50% protection claim doesn’t have any predictive power in the real world. In Cameroon, Ghana, Lesotho, Malawi, Rwanda, and Tanzania, HIV is markedly more prevalent among the circumcised. Throughout Africa, male virgins who have been circumcised are more likely to already have HIV.

    AIDS is more rare in non-cutting Japan than it is in mostly-cut Israel. The US has three times the AIDS problem Europe has even though cutting is rare in Europe and common in the US. In fact, most of the dead male AIDS victims in the US were circumcsied at birth.

    Circumcision does not prevent AIDS.

  3. Pingback: Farmanux News

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *