For a successful campaign against HIV/AIDS, it has to go hand in hand with sex education for the message to sink in, in Nigeria at least. When I was growing up, there were little talk around about the reality of HIV/AIDS and often I was made to believe that it was something that happened to ‘sinners,’ so children of God need not worry as abstinence from sex should be the motto – well so the preachers say.
There is a lot of unnecessary secrecy about illness disclosure in our society that is not helping, HIV/AIDS patients amongst us are dying everyday and yet we do not take interest in learning the nature of their illness.
Kile (not his real name) is my cousin, I knew his father to be a police officer based somewhere in the north. In 1996 when HIV/AIDS was thought to be South Africans’ and western countries problem, the time we prayed and fast in churches so we do not contact AIDS as if it was diarrhea (not that praying would prevent diarrhea but we pray anyways and forget about proper sanitation), however we shy away from educating the population about the one very common way in which HIV/AIDS is contacted – unprotected sex.
Kile was around 25 years old at the time and a Christian, raised with the strong belief of Christian values. He was born and raised somewhere in the north but usually come down south for Easter and Christmas.
Kile was brought home to the village when his health condition has deteriorated and was causing embarrassment for the family. He died a few months afterwards from AIDS related complications.
Antiretroviral drugs were not readily available at the time and the thought of coming out to take any tests was unheard of, stigma associated with HIV/AIDS at the time was far higher than any crime in Nigeria.
His grandma’s house was next door and the only place he visited throughout his last few months was my parents’. Even though at the time HIV/AIDS was unspoken of, he made me realise, it could happen to anyone if unaware of ways to protect oneself.
Kile and I didn’t talk about his disease at all as I could see that the only reason he came by my parents’ was for comfort – he needed no pity but understanding.
My mother told me that Kile had eedi (a type of Yoruba curse). After a few minutes of my mother explaining I realised she meant AIDS, she only knew this because Kile confided in his grandmother. And as expected it went round like Chinese whispers around my village so by the time of Kile’s death, everyone thought he died of eedi.
Although awareness has increased slightly from a decade ago but we still have long way to go and more importantly showing understanding to the plight of those living with HIV/AIDS would encourage many more people suffering in silence to come out for help.
Addis Beza Culture Group – fantastic job they are doing.