Our next stop after the Naguru was another innovative teen center in Kampala: the Kitebi Teenage Centre. The Kitebi Teenage Centre sits at the end of a bumpy, winding dirt road, a bit more difficult to get to than Naguru. However, the team of 150 volunteer staff has solved that problem by bringing their services directly into the communities they serve.
Kitebi has a variety of outreach programs, all designed to reach young people who wouldn’t ordinarily go to a clinic. Their drama team holds well-attended productions throughout Kampala where clients come for some free entertainment and are encouraged to get tested for HIV or receive counseling while they are there. Other outreach programs target young men, including the predominantly male ranks of bora bora drivers (one of the fastest – and most dangerous — ways to get around Kampala is to sit on the back of a hired motorcycle where the driver, called a bora bora driver, weaves in and out of the heavy traffic to take their passengers to their destination) and bricklayers. The Kitebi team distributes condoms in local bars and hosts sporting events where the participants can also receive HIV testing. These programs make the prospect of counseling and testing more tolerable and convenient than expecting these men to go out of their way to visit a clinic.
Those who test positive receive counseling on the spot and are referred to medical doctors. In addition, HIV positive youth and their children are encouraged to join one of the various youth projects hosted by Kitebi, which include cultural dances, knitting projects and candlemaking projects, among others. These projects make Kitebi a fun, safe haven for those they serve, increasing the likelihood that people will return for further counseling and testing.
It seems to be working, because the waiting room was packed with dozens of people waiting to use the variety of services the clinic offers. Beyond HIV testing and condom distribution, clients can be tested for other STIs, receive pre- and post-natal care (crucial services to reducing the maternal mortality rate in Uganda), visit the staff dentist and pregnant women can deliver their children in the clinic’s pregnancy ward.
A key difference between Kitebi and the Naguru Teenage Centre is that Naguru is privately funded by the Swedish organization Sida, while Kitebi is funded through Uganda’s Ministry of Health. As a result, supply stockouts are a way of life at Kitebi, whereas their counterparts at Naguru always have a steady supply of at least basic reproductive health supplies like condoms and other contraceptives. But, the volunteers we met at Kitebi were optimistic about the future of the center, proudly pointing out a sketch on the wall of the new and improved teenage center they hope to build one day.
Kitebi is a testament to what a group of dedicated volunteers can accomplish, even in cramped quarters and with limited resources. I hope they find a way to build that new center – Kampala needs it.