|Looking into the Camera: volunteers Sih and Patience|
Esu, Cameroon After six days of HIV/AIDS testing, I wanted to take a picture that shows the two best trained and performing volunteers, Sih and Patience. Thus I asked the lady who was there for testing if I can have her sit with her back to the camera to keep her privacy. She agreed, but when I showed her the photo she turned and declared "Take my picture, I am not afraid!". Indeed she was not.
She also is a wonderful cook, and her name is Rosemary. Also in the picture is a 10 year old boy. The youngest we tried to test was a 17 month old girl, but the mother could not make her understand to spit into the cup, she just stuck her tongue inside and licked the plastic. The youngest we tested was her 5 year old brother. I am glad the children both tested negative.
|Rosemary is not scared to show her smile|
During the six days of testing we had an opportunity to eat lunch at different places in Esu, called "restaurants". Rosemary was one of our favorite places. She had all the good foods Esu people like, egussy, eru, fufu corn, jama jama, beans and rice, okra soup, pepper soup, corn cow, to name most. The last day she even made chicken, because after 10 days without fish or chicken I was dreaming of chicken....
AIDS used to be a scary unknown and misunderstood disease. Today we know a lot, and with the help of antiretroviral drugs, people can live a long time, women can have babies that are negative due to Parent-Child-Transmission-Prevention-Programs, PCTP. Join Rosemary, don't be afraid, get tested and know your status.
The AIDS testing will continue and we are grateful for Immuno-Science who invented this handy saliva based test and is donating it to us. People really liked it when they learned that no one will poke them with a needle. They also like that they know their status within 30 minutes instead of having to come back next day.
But Esu needs a hospital, with 30-40 thousand inhabitants all they have is a very cheerful nurse, two nurse aids, an energetic lab technician, and a wonderfully able and engaged chief of post functioning as the administrator.
His name is Christian and he is a recent addition to this government run Health Center. The center is not an approved HIV/AIDS counseling and treatment center. A prerequisite would be to have a full time medical doctor on staff. Esu is so far "in the bushes" reachable only via terrible roads that have improved only gradually since I have been traveling this road. This and the lack of basic life comforts makes it hard to get an MD.
However, Christian has the right ideas. He offered to travel to the District Hospital in WUM to pick up the AIDS drugs for all HIV positive people of Esu that joined the newly Esu Family Health Association, an idea sparked by AIDSfreeAFRICA. This Association grew from 25 to 60 within a few month. However, we know many other positive people are still on the fence waiting, afraid to join. But in the mean time thanks to Christian's action, 60 HIV positive people are saving 2000 CFA, an equivalent of 4 US$ in transport cost.
In May while on a 12 day visit in Esu, Christian proudly announced that he is organizing a bus to bring HIV positive people to their bi-annual check up and CD4 analysis. Since getting the results of the test was unreliable, Christian also collects the results of this diagnosis directly at the WUM Hospital. This information is crucial to know if the patient is doing well on his or her AIDS drugs or needs to switch to second line treatment.