But that came to an end when she last year underwent a Comprehensive Community Based Rehabilitation in Tanzania (CCBRT) training on how to attend to PLDs. Since then, this 42 year old passionate nurse says the number of PLDs she attends to has grown. As we entered Tanga Regional Hospital, one thing that caught our attention is the clean verandah heading towards the VCT Department where she is stationed.
Her dream of serving her all clients without discriminating them has become a reality. “PLDs only need to be informed wherever they are that we can now communicate with them easily and offer them service,”she says. In keeping with her goal of offering assistance to people with disabilities to make them feel comfortable at the regional hospital, she would like to see more nurses at the hospital undergo the same training so that PLDs don’t miss services in her absence.
“Considering the huge demand here, I strongly feel more health practitioners should be trained especially in sign language so that they can comfortably communicate with deaf people when they come to access services in my absence,” says Kanyinyi. “People living with disabilities are neglected by main stream systems and this is also engrained in our culture where they were not recognised as equal human beings,” she said.
Elaborating on her academic qualifications, the nursing officer says she holds a diploma from Tanga Nursing School. She has been in nursing for 30 years and has served PLDs over the last six years. The CCBRT Tanga regional coordinator Deo Ernest said that in order to enable PLDs know of the availability of such services for them at public hospitals, the organisation distributes tapes that explain the services offered.
However, nurse Kanyinyi also says if the PLDs are unable to walk to the VCTs, she occasionally organises her department to go to villages and wards to find PLDs in their communities. Last year, she got 10 clients who were PLDs but as of this year, she has gotten four so far who have come for testing and counselling. She says it is important for the nurses to relate better to the patients on a personal level. “It is important to understand the big picture as it takes time to lose old habits,’’ she says.
On World Aids day, December 1 last year, CCBRT organised a day for PLDs and 34 deaf people were tested for HIV.
Deo says they also plan to start home visits programme for PLDs so that they can enlighten them on the importance of going for HIV tests. The nurse says that through the project, she has learnt that PLDs were not being heard. ‘’So this motivates PLDs” he says.
Deo says there is still a shortage of sign language interpreters with the entire region currently having only three of them. There is only one teacher for interpreters in the country. Sign language interpretation has been pushed into the curriculum at teacher training colleges courtesy of CCBRT. “Nurses deal with people living with disabilities and understand them better than anyone else,” says Deo, adding; “It cannot be emphasised enough what a comfort it is to deaf patients to have a nurse who understands what they are trying to say.