The Luke Commission (TLC) isn’t an ordinary mobile clinic. They have x-ray services, wheelchairs for people with disabilities, and new TOMS shoes to distribute to children. TLC also has capacity to conduct medical male circumcision and minor operations. It’s truly closer to a mobile hospital than a mobile clinic, and TLC has to be very methodical to run such an elaborate operation. Each room of the school serves its own purpose, including taking client information, giving vaccinations, providing HIV counseling and testing, and conducting x-rays. It is private and confidential: there is no way to know what service a patient is seeking based on which room they go to or when they go, an effort to prevent stigma. If a patient is diagnosed as HIV-positive, they are given the time to digest the new information and ask questions, and they leave the room better informed about what it means to be HIV positive and how to deal with issues that may arise.That afternoon in the village, the atmosphere turned celebratory. Women arrived with homemade food to sell to people in the schoolyard. Children ran around happily, many in their new TOMS shoes, while women tried on eyeglasses for the first time, walking around and enjoying the details in nature they may not have seen for a long time. It looked to me like everyone in town was there—the schoolyard was packed—but I was told that this was actually a lighter turnout due to the rain that day. The ground was a little muddy and the children were quickly breaking in their new shoes, but everyone was glad to be there.
Community members look forward to TLC’s visits because they know they will receive the health care they need and will be treated with dignity and respect (tender love and care, one may say). Imagine the impact of a mobile clinic on your life if you lived in a rural area, did not earn an income, and could not afford to pay for transport to the clinic in the nearest city when you were ill. This situation results in some people waiting too long to access treatment for serious conditions, or put off simple diagnostic tests for tuberculosis or HIV, and is why a mobile clinic is of such monumental importance to communities in Swaziland. The faces of the happy children running around, the adults socializing while standing in line for much-needed medicine, and the brave faces of the boys lining up to be circumcised will stay with me for a long time. I applaud TLC for their untiring support and compassion for those without access to quality health care.Katy Doyle is a financial analyst at Management Sciences for Health, which implements the Building Local Capacity for Delivery of HIV Services in Southern Africa Project (BLC). She visited The Luke Commission during a support visit with BLC. TOMS is a company based in the United States which donates a new pair of shoes for every pair purchased. BLC is distributing TOMS shoes to children in Lesotho. For more information about TOMS, visit: www.toms.com