Sunday, November 20, 2005

Loy Kratong or the "Festival of Light" (Nov 20)

Loy Kratong is on the full moon night of the twelfth lunar month. The festival expresses gratitude to the goddess of water “Phra Mae Kongka”. The best part is making the kratongs, traditionally made of banana leaves and trunks with candles. Some pictures of my Dad and family celebrating Loy Kratong 2005:

The Ketunuti’s celebrating a Loy Kratong dinner outside our house. My Dad is in the red shirt looking content!

Kratongs (the little lit floats) in the backyard pond.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Some Fun Gaborone Pictures (Nov 17)

Elephants really do hold each others tails!!

Monkey Business

Impala in the dust.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Tshedimoso Acute Infection Study (Nov 15)


First, frustrations, as today is that kind of day: I spend hours waiting for clients who don’t show up, and when they do, there are only about 1/100 (literally) who qualify for our study. Also, we don’t have a lab director anymore. Our study PI, has become the contact person for any lab related issues. And although he is extremely helpful, he’s not here in person, and there isn’t quite the direction that a high functioning lab should have. Some people in the lab (I won’t say who) joked that we would get a director quickly if we started asking questions like:

Do we ship samples on dry ice or regular ice?
When we pipette, should we press all the way down, or just halfway?
What’s a mole?
What’s wrong with using distilled water instead of dH2O?

I joke about this, but some of these questions are not too far off from ones I’ve asked.

Positives (because what’s life without being a little optimistic): There is an increase in enrollment! People are starting to walk into the research clinic now that we’re distributing posters and business cards. Slow but steady progress is still progress. I’ve also started thinking more about lab projects, which I’m looking forward to, as I feel that I will have more control of things.

I’ve realized that I haven’t described what research I’m doing in Botswana, so I’ve included a little about our acute infection study below. I admit that I cheated a little and cut and paste this from our introduction letter, but it gets to the point.

Tshedimoso: Early and Acute HIV-1C Infection in Botswana/Markers of Viral Set Point in Primary HIV-1C Infection.


The Tshedimoso study aims to research the body’s immune response and the viral dynamics during primary HIV infection. Primary HIV disease can behave very differently from chronic HIV infection and is likely to be a predictor of time to onset of AIDS. Understanding the body’s response to primary HIV infection could generate interventions to prevent progression to AIDS, such as early treatments and vaccine design.

The Tshedimoso Study screens for two components of primary infection:

(1) Acute HIV infection
(2) Early HIV infection.

Acute HIV Infection

Acute HIV infection, also known as the HIV “window period”, is a period of approximately 2-12 weeks when the patient has HIV but does not have detectable antibodies and tests negative with a regular ELISA rapid test. Using a specialized HIV RT-PCR test, the Tshedimoso Study can detect the HIV virus just a few days after infection. A benefit of this specialized test is that patients do not need to retest for HIV in 3 months to confirm a negative result.

During acute HIV infection patients are 10-20 times more likely to transmit HIV. Some research suggests that the HIV “window period” is responsible for much of the spread of the HIV epidemic. Knowing one’s HIV status during the “window period” empowers patients with knowledge that may alter their risk-taking behaviors, protecting family and the community.

Early HIV Infection

Patients with early infection test positive with the rapid test and have an HIV infection less than 6 months old. Early HIV infection can be detected using the detuned HIV EIA test.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Weekend in Joburg (Nov 5-6)

Highlights of Joburg: The Old Mutual Soweto Race, rugby, green trees, shopping, and real Thai food!

Johannesburg: City lights with an overexposure

Chris and I took a trip to Joburg this weekend which was, again, planned at the last minute because Chris got her visa late and I couldn’t find my resident’s permit. Because of the late start we made a stopover in Rustenburg, a mining town northwest of Johannesburg. There were some scenic, mountainous areas, and a nice “kloof”, which I think means cliff? We also saw the shadier parts of town when we got lost (as usual) in the industrial area at night.

Sandton Shopping
We finally made it to Sandton Saturday morning after passing through Hartebeesport, checked into the hotel and headed straight to the shops. After a 2 hour stint in the camera store, we took on the shoe stores and beauty product shops- it was quite the shopping marathon! However, I was reasonable and only took back 1 pair of shoes and a moisturizer- necessary things.

Rugby and Cancer Research
In the afternoon, Tonie and I met up and went to support cancer research- he shaved his head and I spray painted my hair blue! It was for a good cause…I also learned a little bit about rugby from watching the South Africa-Argentina game in a very smelly pub. Players are allowed to grab each others legs, ears, shirts- whatever it takes to get the ball. There are 15 players on each team, except when there’s a scrum, then there are only 8 players on each side. As far as I could tell, a scrum is when the players pile on top of each other. A very entertaining sport!

The 14th Anniversary of The People's Race: The Old Mutual Soweto Race
I dragged my poor mother at 5:30 in the morning to this race, and it was fantastic! There were hundreds- probably thousands- of runners and tons of atmosphere! There were singing groups, blaring radios, lots of cheers. I had someone yell at me, “Go Chinese runner!”, which sounded like pure encouragement, so I smiled and ran faster.

Time: 0:53hrs. Considering that there were some wicked hills, I had slept about 3 hours, had one more Savannah than I should have the night before, and missed breakfast, I thought it a decent time. The only disappointment was that the organizers ran out of shirts and there were practically riots because of it. Overall, brilliant race!

Runners on the Soweto Marathon Route (2003)

Winner of the Soweto Marathon Tsotang Maene (2005)

Runners on the Soweto 10km Route (2005)


Ishmael Khosie: I still haven't been able to figure out who he is...a runner or someone supporting the anti-apartheid movement?

Soweto: We ran past this!

Gaborone Half Marathon (Oct 30)

The Running Club organized a fantastic half-marathon for about 100 runners that started at Game City and went for 2 loops around the area. The race, which started only 15 minutes late, was a very flat, fast course, with only a little bit of off-road running and lots of water stops. The only obstacle was a cow blocking one of the dirt paths, but nobody could have done about that as the cows and goats have free reign of the Botswana streets. Although there were some speedy runners there from Zim and SA, the winners were Batswana! Go Botswana! Tiyapo Mosa was also there, placing 8th for men overall. The women’s winning time was 82 minutes (I’m unsure of the men’s time). My time was 114 minutes- not anywhere near the winner, but I was fairly happy with the run.

There were at least a dozen runners without shoes, who would really appreciate an old pair of shoes, as the roads had glass, sharp rocks, and are really hot. I gave an old, muddy pair away and they were very much appreciated. If you have old sports shoes (they don’t have to be running shoes- some people were running in Keds), please send them to the following address and I will get them to the running club: Attn: Melissa Ketunuti, Private Bag 320, Gaborone, Botswana.

I realize that this sounds like a scam, but what am I going to do with a pile of old running shoes?

Main Mall Health Fair (Oct 28)

Although it had primarily a religious focus, the Health Fair on Friday addressing HIV stigma was productive. There were people screened for elevated blood pressure and diabetes, and of course lots of HIV education. BHP was represented by Reverend Hambira, who is our marketing director and an amazing speaker. I think appeals to people by talking about HIV research like he talks at a sermon! Overall, a success, with lots of business cards handed out as well as some TV time and a newspaper article. I am sure we will have patients lining up outside the study clinics asking to be screened by Tshedimoso…

My picture in the paper! Looking very busy....