If it bleeds, it leads

Following the recent News of the World phone-hacking debacle I’m sure all of us wondered about the state of journalism.

Questionable ethics. Check.

Preoccupation with headline-grabbing, sensational stories of death and destruction. Check.

But today I personally had my faith restored in why we journalists do what we do.

I’ve been working with Christine, a formerly abducted woman from northern Uganda, for the past month.

She has 5 kids – each with a different father.

For the past few years she’s been living with the belief that she was HIV+.

Christine says she thinks it’s God’s plan that she’s still here because he took her mind away from killing herself and her children with rat poison.

“In the past if I was to listen to people and what they are saying, you people may not have found me here,” says Christine. “I would have been long dead.”

She says people would tell her she must be HIV+ because of her time in the bush as an LRA rebel, and the fact that her ex-husband had passed away inexplicably and that her co-wife had given birth to a child who died soon afterwards.

But surprisingly Christine had never gone to get tested.

So after a few attempts, I finally managed to convince her to go and get tested. At least then she’d know either way and could start taking the necessary treatment.

But the father of her unborn child refused to join us.

Over 1,000 people in the rural town of Patongo alone are registered as HIV+ at the local health centre.

The director in charge of the ART clinic says that they often run out of the medication for 3 months a time.

He blames a shortage of staff. It’s just him working 10 hour days. Yesterday he saw 150 patients.

In the process he ran out of several of the drugs and has had no time to fill in the order slips for renewals.

Patients often have to travel to nearby Kalongo for the drugs –but many can’t afford the bus fare and so go without.

Patongo is a microcosm of the country as a whole; nearly 300,000 Ugandans with HIV are affected by these drug shortages.

Speaking whilst we anxiously waited for her blood test results. Christine said she was ready for the worst and was not afraid.

“People think fear is the main cause of death,” she said stoically.

But 10 minutes later, there was good news.

Christine revealed the cheeky, gap-toothed grin that I’ve come to know so well.

The test was negative.

She cheekily asked if she could also get tested for syphilis too.

It was a fitting end to the last day of my field research. One of the few positive stories that I’ve encountered in the past 8 weeks.

Seems that sometimes a little bloodletting can be good for the state of journalism.