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Understanding HIV in Harare: My Internal Medicine Elective at University of Zimbabwe

Filed under: GEMx Regional Exchanges, GEMx Student Reflections

By Polibu Amos, a final year medical student of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Ghana. 

The period between 5th year and final year is always a time every medical student in my school looks forward to, as it the time for medical electives. So, I was excited when my school allowed me to apply for an elective through the GEMx program. With the help of my school coordinator Madam Charlotte, Ms. Faith (GEMx African representative), The applications for an elective in internal medicine at the University of Zimbabwe for me and my colleague went on smoothly. Once our applications were accepted Mrs. Gandara (electives coordinator, UZ) facilitated the rest of the process for us.

We left Ghana on Tuesday, 3rd of September 2019 at 9 pm, we had 2 stops at Nairobi and Lusaka and by 11 am the following day, we arrived at Harare. The weather was sunny but with a harmattan-like breeze. Thanks to Mrs. Gandara, a driver was already waiting for us at the airport. The driver Mr. Gift Tsikirayi, helped us a lot by taking us to our accommodation and all the places we needed to do our registration. It took us several days to get used to the cold weather in Harare, especially at night. We registered with the Medical and Dental Practitioners’ Council of Zimbabwe (MDPCZ) on Thursday and started the clinical work on Friday at the Parirenyatwa hospital.


My colleague and I were assigned to different wards and joined the medical students there. I noticed a couple of differences in the hospital and medical school system in Zimbabwe and Ghana. In Zimbabwe, a team is assigned to a ward and they see all kinds of medical cases as opposed to Ghana where the doctors are in teams but not assigned to a ward. I was introduced to the doctors and medical students in the ward and they all warmly received me and made me feel included. We had wards rounds every day, where we get to present cases and we used to have a tutorial session with the residents (registrars as they are called in Zimbabwe) after rounds. I made a lot of friends who made my rotation interesting, they also helped in translating what patients said in Shona (the local dialect) for me.

As a student who is yet to do my senior clerkship rotation in medicine, this elective gave an overview of everything I will be doing and more. On the daily ward rounds, I saw cases I hadn’t seen before. This elective has also sparked my interest in internal medicine especially HIV and its associated opportunistic infections. As we saw patients with HIV only a daily basis, I read so much about HIV and also had several discussions on the topic.

Our clinical rotation came to a halt after our second as all the doctors declared a nationwide strike after the leader of junior doctors got abducted . Unfortunately, for us the strike wasn’t called off even after he was found, hence we did no clinical work for the rest of our stay in Zimbabwe. Some of the doctors, however, organized a few tutorial sessions for us. I learned about their health system, their culture and the country in general from the students.



Socially, I made a lot of new friends from Zimbabwe, Uganda, Lesotho, and Sweden. We had a lot of fun together with other elective students from different countries. We visited the national art gallery where we saw a lot of great artwork. We were educated on who the artistes were and what inspired the paintings and artwork. We also attended monthly socializing event dubbed “hustlers’ market” where people display indigenous products for sale coupled with live performances. We visited the Mukuvisi woodlands where we had an amazing experience. We went on a horse safari and it was so exciting. I also ate the local dish sadza which is the staple food in Zimbabwe.


The major challenge we had in Harare is was getting cash from the banks and ATMs, other than that and the strike, we had a great experience in Harare. Don’t forget to get in touch with your embassy as Ms. Bernice from Ghana embassy made our stay wonderful, we left for Ghana on the 28th of September 2019.

In conclusion, I would like to thank GEMx for allowing me to have this experience. Special thanks to Ms. Faith (GEMx Africa), Mrs. Rachel Gandara, Madam Charlotte, doctors of ward C4 at the Parirenyatwa hospital and Ms. Bernice (Ghana embassy).

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