The event, a joint collaboration among Hiccup Circus Uganda and the Infectious Diseases Institute – Makerere University, was at the Treasure Life Youth Centre – Kamwookya – where about 1,000 audience members participate. The meningitis team, based at the Infectious Disease Institute – Mulago Campus – cares for adults with HIV-associated brain infections, such as cryptococcal and TB meningitis. The team are trying to find better diagnostics and treatment for these conditions.
Meningitis is a type of brain infection, from which people with HIV who are not on antiretroviral therapy are at particular risk. Meningitis has a very high death rate, with up to 50%. One reason for this is people present to the hospital very late when the diseases is already very severe. Lumbar puncture (taking water) is a very important part of the diagnosis and treatment of meningitis. However, many people are afraid of lumbar punctures and refuse this life-saving treatment in the hospital. The aims of this public engagement event were as follows:
- To raise awareness in the community about early symptoms of meningitis – headache, neck pain, fevers, confusion, seizures
- Encourage people to present to Kiruddu hospital earlier when the disease is still mild
- Explain lumbar puncture, why it is done and reduce anxiety about the procedure
- To make people aware of the meningitis team and the RifT and Ambition studies, how the study can help people with meningitis and how to access the study
During OLUNAKU OLWOKUJUKIRA have been used interactive community performances to help educate people about public health. The community was entertained through music, acrobatics, juggling, clowning, fire breathing and a drama sketch were performed to help spread the educational messages around meningitis and lumbar punctures.
In the course of the show there was a question and answer session with a survivor of meningitis, the HIV advocate Dr Stephen Watiti, who has written extensively on the subject. Members of the IDI meningitis research team were at the venue as well to meet with the community and answer questions from the public.
One hour of an amazing live show: 10 artists on stage performing 15 different circus numbers. Our Ringmaster was busy as well playing a central role in keeping the spectators’ attention constantly focused on the theme and frequently interacting with them.
Even the members of spectators’ family were included; at the end of the show booklets containing relevant information have been distributed while, the broad Kampala communities, was reached with the communication and visibility activities as press releases, photo-video shoot distribution, newsletter, website and social media updating.