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Education and Care Could Help Reduce the Spread of AIDS in Africa

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More than two million AIDS related deaths reported globally in 2008 – two million children under the age of 15 now live with HIV. New figures released by the World Health Organization and UNAIDS estimate the number of new HIV infections have declined each year by about 17% from 2001 to 2008, but for every five people infected, only two start treatment.

Today, December 1st, 2009 marks the 20th World AIDS Day

Education and care could help reduce the spread of AIDS in Africa. Do you think the jingles and awareness programmes are enough to educate the people on AIDS?

This is a story of a young woman. Tonia, this is what we fondly call her, danced with joy into the reception hall as the hall stood rendering a thunderous applaud to this beautiful and newly wedded couple, it was the year 2000.

Late 2000, there was another gathering, it was Tonia’s baby boy, Junior. Once more it was a day of joy as we gathered at the child’s naming ceremony; he was a handsome child, smiled as if he knew why we were gathered. He definitely would be a great man as his grandmother called him Odogwu.

One morning in 2002, they heard a voice, quite low but it was obvious that it was an adult sobbing, this was coming from Tonia’s apartment and after sometime it died down. Days past and Tonia’s husband was nowhere to be seen. It was from our ‘nose-poking’ neighbour that we learnt that Tonia’s husband was admitted into the General hospital, he was very ill. Same year, he passed-on and the news from our ‘nose-poking’ neighbour was that the government discovered he was infected by the virus and was detained at the hospital to avoid the spread of the virus. Our ‘nose-poking’ neighbour also ‘said that’ Tonia avoided to hospital, scared of being diagnose of the same ailment.

Early 2003, Tonia was back to her widowed mother’s house, just two streets away from where she used to stay with her only son Junior. Junior, born in late 2000, was a cute piece to admire like every child of that age, the only problem was that he looked rather malnourished, but I see him with an older child about everyday crossing the street to purchase his lunch at ‘iya ibadan’s’ food shed.

According to some others who Tonia confided on the situation behind her husband’s death, they advised Tonia to go for a test to be sure that she wasn’t infected, but Tonia ignored probably scared of the result.

2004-2005, Tonia had gained a lot of flesh and looked well, she was fully recovered from the effect of her husband’s sudden illness and death, and she decided to move on. Within this year, she met men, who could not resist her looks and humour, she dated some, went out a lot and you could hear the walls echo as she said her morning and evening prayers; really I enjoyed her songs, it reminded me of the Swahili people that I hear on TV.

Neighbours trooped in and out of her apartment, Junior, the ‘great man’ had just passed-on this morning, it was early 2006. Again the advice came to Tonia, “I think Junior died of the disease, go for a test” “isn’t it obvious that I don’t have it” Tonia responded.

2009, Tonia our once robust and humorous lady has lost a whole lot of weight, she has a lot of terribly looking blisters on her skin, she doesn’t come out anymore. But I caught a glance of her.
“good evening” I greeted, she came out to pick an item and was about to rush back inside as I noticed but the greeting brought her back and you could see it lifted up her spirit as she answered “good evening”

So was Tonia faith and that of many suffering from this instant killer.

For Tonia, immediately it became noticeable, she became a ‘never to go near’ individual, her once friends stopped coming around her, she withdrew to the confinement of her mother’s house “people who use to speak to me no longer do” she said to me as we sat outside one evening, she went on to say “those who never use to speak to me now do, but those who use to be my friends now avoid me with so much disdain at the sight of me”.

After our brief encounter that evening, she went back to her apartment, all eyes were on her.

“Make she no sitdown here again” the illiterate security man said “the breeze fit carry the disease and I go breath am, I never wan die” he explained. I starred at him, mouth wide-opened “me nko” I asked. I never imagined that people were stilled that ignorant on how to and how not to contact the virus, it was a pity that someone in a modern environment; part of town in Lagos could still speak about the disease in such ignorance.

Makes me wonder, are the radio jingles and all the awareness programme really effective? My saying hello to Tonia transformed her mood and she decided to go for her antiretroviral drugs, which she has continued till date.

The public needs more aware and through our individual care we could make a difference, we could join, individually to educate and show love to those in our midst living with HIV.

Today, the number of HIV infected people undergoing treatment has increased due to the support of the government, NGOs and global health agencies. Individually, you and I can make a difference, we could fight this, begin with you, go for a test, know your HIV status and support others living with HIV, just a smile could save a soul.

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