As we dwell on the current health issues plaguing Africa and Nigeria, and the initiatives already in place and planned for the future. We need to look over our shoulders and see if we are missing out some important details.
Recent reports show increasing trends in patients receiving Anti retroviral medication all over Africa, this is quite commendable. Even though the progress is tilted in the favor of the urban dwellers and ignore the rural dwellers that are most at risk, we still acknowledge progress.
The current administration and the current health minister in Nigeria give us hope, despite her recent troubles, we have seen a move towards more involvement of stakeholders in policy issues and advocacy. As we March towards more funding for all levels of health care, there is a growing tendency to ignore the pertinent public issues, and thereby lose ground already covered, if there’s anything like that in our case.
On HIV/AIDS are we focusing solely on the provision of ARV’s and abandoning the provision of condoms to people at risk. In the US and other economies that have succeeded in reducing the minimum the HIV scourge they have effectively combined both arms, primary and secondary prevention. In our case the primary prevention which is always cheaper should not be ignored.
My recent visit to my alma mater here in the US served as reinforcement of this need. The provision of free condoms in the health center waiting rooms, gymnasium atrium, residence halls, dining rooms, fraternity residencies, and other places that students are wont to gather, has even escalated compared to when I was there years back.
In Africa and Nigeria especially are we providing free condoms to our university students, are we providing free condoms to our prostitutes, or are waiting for more people to join the growing queues for subsidized ARV’s? “GlaxoSmithKline has urged the Nigerian government to implement a duty waiver on antiretroviral drugs to improve access to them by HIV/AIDS patients in the country”, says one headline, I have not seen any headlines urging duty waivers on condoms.
As we plan to build bigger hospitals, improve access to ARV’s, we need to continuously drive home the message of prevention and increased condom use simultaneously. That way our gains would not be eroded by us ignoring the basics.
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