Locard’s Exchange Principle (Every Contact Leaves a Trace)

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A principle used by forensic scientists and pathologists up to today: ” Every contact leaves a trace”. This principle is the same principle that gets medical examiners combing hair to find hair fibres from the perpetrator of rape. The same principle that causes a detective to look for finger prints on the windows used to enter a house to commit a burglary. I couldnt help being struck with the realisation that the same holds true with the people we encounter in our lives, the things we do. Every contact leaves a trace. Locard’s exchange principle.

It seems that our lives are indeed the product of our experiences and the people we encounter. I remember 1996 like it was yesterday. So many things happened that year. Tupac died in a horrific shooting that year instantly diefying him in the minds of future Hip Hop/ Rap singers. Zimbabwe had Elections and Robert Mugabe won by a landslide even though the only 2 other people who were contesting against him withdrew and one of them was actually under house arrest at the time. Zimbabwe beat England 3-0 in the ODI series probably the only time that that happened on our home ground. Relatives died, new ones were born and the circle of life rolled on as usual.

At a macroscopic level things seemed as though they went on as usual. Two contacts however were made between me and certain individuals which would forever shape the course of my life. I will use these to explain my point. I recall that the past year I had been having problems with my vision. I had gotten terrible floater which interfered with my vision to the point that I was virtually blind. In the eyes of my fellow school mates I had vrought this on myself by messing around with another persons spectacles. ( I was later to find that my problem had nothing to do with me messing with a friends spectacles). The problem led me into the consulting rooms of one Roy Agnel D’souza. There was nothing particularly remarkable about this man except that he was indian. This was remarkable for me because I had never spoken to and indian man before. He was a mild mannered man of short stature, he compensated for this by sitting, walking and standing bolt straight. He just had this authoritative demeanor about him and was just the sort of person I thought was worth emulating. He would drag his feet slightly when he walked and his footseps were so regular you could set a metronome by them. He would walk with a neutral face, palms facing backwards  barely swinging. To this day I believe I have my own adaptation of his posture and mannerisms. I came to see this man every year for my eye check ups and my selected profession quickly changed from Comercial Pilot to Opthalmologist. ( for about 5 years)

That same year I met a family who were to alter my nature. Francis Mavuka Chiwora and his wife. Francis a gynaecologist, happened to be my brother in law. Until this year I had only known of him. I met him through his wife who was a nurse by profession and sister to my half brother’s wife. Their generosity literally blew me away. It confounded me, I couldnt explain it. I could not find a motive behind it it was pure and unadulterated. They were genuinely concerned not only about my welbeing but the welbeing of my relationships with both my parents and my siblings. Up to this point I had grown up believing that there was always a motive behind any good deed. As was the norm in our african culture parents raised their pension packages, but this was not the case here. His wife listened to and actually heard what I was saying at a time when no one else was listening. At a time when I had been written off. I can stil remember her accent. I could not recall exactly where is was from but somehow sounded like a mixture between “Manica” and “Zezuru”. She always came off as very quiet, mild mannered.The type of person you could not even imagine raising their voice. Francis was a man of stature if I had ever seen one, at least 1,9 m tall( or at least he seemed that way at the time) but still very soft spoken, eager to teach never speaking in anger. Here was a family wh really didnt have a reason to be nice to anyone yet they were. Despite the few times I tried their patience they never rasied their voices at me, not once. At times I see a situation when people are in need and I cannot help but think of a way I can make the situation better. Thanks tomDr Chiwora I considered gynaecology, well at least for a couple of years

Now leaving this little town called opuwo I can’t help but acknowledge that some part of it has rubbed off on me. I have learn’t patience from the most trying of patients. I learn’t tolerance from the himbas a tribe that seems stuck in time. I learnt to accept individual differences and do so without judgment. I learn’t to see things from different perspectives all the time. I can recall a heated arguement between a Himba lady and a Herero lady. The himbas basically live of the land, make their clothes (if incould call them that) from animal skin and apply a mixture of ochre (red earth stones crushed into a powder) mixed with milk fat. The red paste is imprinted onto all they touch, every contact leaves a trace. Interestingly the herero are descendant from the Himbas, they were however adopted by the German colonialist as child minders, cleaners and gardners hence their apparently victorian attire. Back to the argument, the more modern herero lady was accusing the himba lady of making the environment dirty with their ochre and animal skins. The himba lady in turn replied that when they throw away their attire it is simply decomposed and reclaimed by the earth, they get their food from the earth and from animals mean while the hereros now get their food from the shops where it is packed in plastic bottles and plastic bags which the “earth cant take back” so how could she be saying that she made the environment dirty. She had a valid point depite her appearance.

I will ultimately be the product of my experiences, a little bit of the people I meet will go on to shape my attitudes to things and how I percieve those around me. This I believe will apply to all. I am sure many a man can recount an experience that left its mark on them. I would be interested to read about them. Please leave your experiences in the comments section.


Opinions on Home HIV testing.

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I do not think it is necessary to go into detail about what HIV is, how it is spread as I believe there are a lot of sites on the Internet that offer that information. Also not being a specialist on the subject i am more inclined to stay away from the topic in terms of virology, epidemiology and natural progression  of the disease. I currently work as a General practitioner in a setting that requires even general practitioners to apply for special permission to carry out the tests in their own facilities. I do not know the reason for this however being in a third world setting and in such a place where there is so much concern with the statistics, ie the number of people tested the number positive, what age group etc I can imagine this is so that they get clean figures when reporting to Non governmental organisations and other donors.

There are some home testing kits supplied by most pharmacies in Namibia and although they are not endorsed by the Ministry of health, they provide a valuable screening tool for the individual. There is some division within the medical field as to how best to use these kits and the arguments vary. Those against the use of the kit at home use the argument that there is no quality control at home, there is usually no counselling done and follow up after the test is at the discretion of the patient. This unfortunately assumes that the patient testing themselves has some sort of mental instability. It is my belief that the fact that a patient has the insight to request the test, he or she is a person capable of handling the result. There are also those individuals who have undergone the voluntary counselling and testing so many times that they are tired of the ritualised procedure in some of the new start centres. Privacy is also big factor favouring the home test kit and the convenience of being able to administer the test in your own home.

The lack of accountability is an ever present threat with all testing systems. Even when done at a new start centre the patient or individual is simply given the referral letter and it is assumed that the 2 hour session was surfficient to ensure that they go to a doctor for further care. Again this assumption. Is baseless and does not factor in individual will. It is human nature to want to survive. Once the grieving process is done the next step is survival and at this stage the individual will seek out treatment.

For those of you who want to carry out the test here is a video to help guide you through the process. It’s fairly simple and straight forward. The kit is all inclusive and since it is your blood there is usually no need for gloves. If you have a friend taking the sample for you make sure they wear appropriate protective clothing.