Mukono and Kisoro

In December 2007, five experienced North American acupuncturists travelled to Uganda to begin the training of two new groups of Trainees. As we have come to expect from our past trainings, though we continue to be awed and humbled, the response from Trainers and Trainees, as well as the patients, was extremely positive.

The Pan African Acupuncture Project (PAAP) had returned to Uganda to begin the first of three trainings to two new groups of Trainees: 22 Traditional Healers in Mukono, which is just northeast of the capital of Kampala, and 25 healthcare practitioners from the southwest town of Kisoro.

When we began the first training of these two groups, the response was one of skepticism and curiosity. However, by the end of the training, they expressed amazement with a bit of hesitant confidence. After only five days of training, the treatments they were providing were relieving their patients’ symptoms. Already they were excited to have another tool to help the scores of patients who every day come to their local hospitals, health centres, and clinics.

As had been the experience of past Trainees, these new Trainees would be able to use the acupuncture to help those patients they had been unable to help previously, those who had no access to medication, and those who were unwilling to go to medical professionals. With nearly 80% of the Ugandan population still seeking the help of traditional healers, in the words of one Trainee, “Acupuncture [would be] the bridge between our traditional medicine and Western medicine.”

As Canadian acupuncturist and Trainer Emilie Salomons reported, “Patient response was nothing short of phenomenal. It was often the response of the patient which convinced the healthcare worker to implement acupuncture into their rural health centres. Reaction to the acupuncture, for reasons we can only start to imagine, was much faster and more drastic than in North America. Often what took 4 or 5 treatments in North America to see effect would take one treatment in the village clinic.

“We had people literally jumping off the treatment tables dancing with relief. I would estimate that 85% of the patients my trainees and I saw marked at leas t a minimal feeling of improvement after the first treatment, if not greater. To imagine a series of such treatments is simply exhilarating. The most common diseases seen were HIV related opportunistic infections, keloids, malaria and pain, all of which responded very well to treatment.”

Although at the end of the trainings Trainee enthusiasm and interest in the acupuncture is clearly apparent, it is always difficult for Trainers to leave them for the three months between trainings. However, when we returned this past April to begin the second training, once again the Trainers were impressed and moved by the many stories of the Trainees’ success using acupuncture. And, in no way had their excitement, curiosity, and commitment waned. They returned for the second training eager to hone their skills and deepen their understanding of acupuncture.

During the five-days trainings, each group of Trainees treated approximately 450 patients, including infants, children, and the elderly. They had acquired the skills to be able to help address the symptoms associated with HIV/AIDS, malaria, TB, and many other common illnesses. The patients provided a very rich environment in which the Trainees were supervised and further educated by PAAP’s committed and continually awed Trainers.

Upon beginning their work, new Trainers are also sometimes skeptical about how much can be taught in such a short time and how much these simple treatments can actually do. However, without exception, at the end of the five days they walk away both amazed by the focused work of the Trainees and astounded by the power of acupuncture even when used in such a simplified manner.

At the end of these second trainings, the Trainees were extremely appreciative of the work we had done. Most important was that the Trainees, now even better skilled and more confident, continued to be excited about acupuncture and about the possibility of providing better health care to their patients.

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