Thought Leadership

HIV access to treatment and prayer houses

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It was a busy afternoon when the text arrived from my colleague whom I had met working on HIV in the UK ” Can you please recommend a reputable HIV support organization in Nigeria? A relative of a friend has just been diagnosed in Nigeria”

I wasted no time in passing on the details of Journalists Against AIDS whose website and e-forum continues to be such a valauable resource, as well as PATA, the organization founded by the redoubtable Rolake Odetoyinbo who thankfully had a list of treatment centres and support groups on their website

The next day I had planned to send a text to find out how they had got on, but the pressure of work meant that I was unable to. The next morning I woke up to another text “Thanks for the links but the patient died yesterday, apparently she had been in a prayer house for the last 2 months”

I was chilled to the marrow but also angry, remembering the many patients I had seen in clinics ten years ago whom I had had to break the news that they had tested positive to HIV when there were very few treatment options available in Nigeria. Now as a result of activism and advocacy, treatment was now available and yet people were still failing to take up treatment, preferring to head for prayer houses

Granted, this patient may still have died even with treatment, but there was also a good chance that they could have survived, but the chance was never taken….

Who will stand up to these prayer houses? Who will help our people to help God to help ourselves. We cannot leave everything to God….not if he has given us the brains to solve some problems for ourselves…

Photo copyright International AIDS Society

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed people can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has…Margaret Mead

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