Every month, HDI hosts medical students from the University of Rwanda to teach them about our innovative and progressive health work. Our goal is for future medical practitioners to provide stigma-free healthcare to their patients so that all Rwandans can enjoy their right to health without discrimination. On April 26th, 2017, we interviewed three final-year medical students about their impressions on HDI’s work with key populations and the rights-based approach to healthcare. Many thanks to our participants and future doctors of Rwanda, Ntambara Kanyangira Nelson, Oda Munyura, and Blaise Ntacyabukura.
Question 1: Do you think that HDI’s trainings are beneficial for medical students? Why or why not?
Nelson: Yes! There are so many things that I learned from it. For example, the way that HDI works with key populations . I didn’t know that HDI worked with them. The fact that they are trying to reduce HIV in those communities is a good thing. I also learned that HDI helps the historically marginalized communities of Rwanda by organizing them into cooperatives and giving them pigs and cows. It’s very good for the development of the country.
Oda: I learned that there is a community of men who have sex with men. I hadn’t known that they existed in Rwanda. I learned that there is a way to help them as a doctor without judging them. I also learned about how medical doctors started this organization without waiting around for other people to help. They were proactive by initiating their work in order to help their communities.
Blaise: This training was very important for me. I always used to wonder how I could best help the community as a doctor. It is not only good to be a medical expert in the hospital, you should also look for ways to help people avoid needing the doctor in the first place. I learned about HDI’s approach and how their ideas originally came from medical doctors. I learned the approach of how to focus on key groups who are most affected by issues.
Question 2: How did today’s training affect your way of thinking about the relationship between medical work and human rights?
Nelson: People have a right to health and to get medical treatment. I learned that HDI helps people who cannot access medical services because of stigma, particularly key populations . HDI teaches them and refers them to various partnering health centers. I have seen some cases in the hospital where men who have sex with men delay coming for treatment because they fear discrimination. But by the time they do come, their diseases are advanced and in the late stages so that it is too late to effectively help. It is good that HDI works with hospitals and clinics so that those people can get treatment while it is still early so that they do not get complications.
Oda: For a doctor to do their work well, they should respect human rights. Helping key populations without stigmatizing or judging them is necessary because it is their right to have health care.
Blaise: Some people get certain diseases and those people are discriminated against in society, but our work as doctors is to treat them. I learned the different ways we can approach them and ensure that they get their right to health.
Question 3: How will today’s training impact your future work as a doctor?
Nelson: Before this training, I was not friendly towards LGBT people. I thought that it was taboo, so giving them services was not something that I would have done enthusiastically. But today I have learned that they are also human even though their lifestyle is not accepted in our culture. As doctors we should give them their right to health services and receive them like others with no discrimination. That is what has changed for me.
Oda: I will put my patient’s human rights above my own personal feelings about them. If I receive a patient, all I will do is give them the services that they need without considering other factors such as who they are or where they’re from. I will give them services because they need them just like any other person.
Blaise: From this training I have learned that helping people is not only done at the clinic or hospital. If you want to best help someone, you should go into the root causes of the problem. In the near future I will be a medical doctor in the hospital, but it will not end there. I will go into the community and help in terms of campaigns, advocacy, and trying to influence policies because they influence the way that people live in this country. I want to be more than just a practicing doctor. I want to help people in my community in other ways.