Thought Leadership

Good news on HIV/AIDS?

I have had a few emails asking….Is there nothing good coming out of the health sector in Nigeria?

Well…there just might be!

The Guardian reports that NATIONAL Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) said at the weekend that there have been fewer new HIV infections in the country and the number of Nigerians who die due to the virus had reduced drastically.

Reduced from 3.9 to what you might ask?…yes….same thought here. Well…the final figures have not been announced…but we live in hope. To read a good summary of the situation in Nigeria, the UNAIDS country page is a good resource

This is an opportune time to highlight work done by individuals and organisations in this area.

So …over the next few weeks…we will look all over the health scene in Nigeria for positive stories, especially in regard to the response to HIV/AIDS

If you have any stories that have positively affected the health of Nigerians…please send them in.

We’ll start with a few stories on the individuals and organisations outside the public sector. I have always been interested in…what is that extra trigger that causes us to move from a great idea, strong will, determination,…to actually conceptualizing and doing.. This quote from Nduka Obaigbena in Thisday on Sunday jumped out on me… Dele Momodu’s column in Thisday on Saturday.

“Let every individual pick his own sector and excel, with or without government. I have chosen mine.”

I have come to realise that this trigger is always different. Sometimes it is a personal tragedy, sometimes it is just a strong determination to do “good”, sometimes it is a business opportunity…

There is no more appropriate place to start than the story of JAAIDS and Omololu Falobi

. My friend Ike describes meeting Omololu thus:

My first encounter with Omololu was via the internet. I was enrolled on a Master’s degree programme at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and was doing research for a project on HIV. When I typed in the words “Nigeria AIDS” into the Google search engine, it took me straight to the website for an organization called Journalists Against AIDS. Once on it, I quickly signed up to join the electronic forum organized by the group and from there became immersed deeply in the Nigerian HIV world. I could not believe my good fortune in finding the site and wondered who had had the foresight and expertise to set up such a useful resource. Searching on the site, I soon found that the organization was the brainchild of a gentleman called Omololu Falobi. I became a regular contributor to the site and often recommended it to colleagues and friends who had questions about HIV in Nigeria.

To read the full story of our last encounter with Omololu…click here.

My story with Omololu is just as fascinating…In 2000, doing my MPH in Germany…I needed a list of NGOs working on HIV/AIDs in Nigeria. I did a search on the web, found Omololu, wrote him an email out of the blue. In a weeks time I got a parcel via DHL. He refused to accept that I pay for it. He said…I was the same age as him…and the more ‘young’ people like us got involved in the stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS…this was payment enough. This was a journalist speaking to a physician!

I learnt a lot from this man! He showed that you do not have to shout at the top of your voice to be heard. He never sort the podium. He walked the walk. He showed that while we sit, argue and moan…about all that is bad with our country, one person sometimes CAN change things…one small step at a time.

Whenever the history of the response to HIV/AIDS is written in Nigeria, it will always be associated with Omololu.

I first met Omololu at the 2000 Durban AIDS Conference…where the theme was “Break the Silence”. I last met him in the at the 2006 conference in Toronto…themed “Time to Deliver” (picture below)

Sadly…the “Best of Nigeria” lost him…to “Worst of Nigeria”…as he was shot for still unknown reasons on the streets of Lagos. His is always remembered. Even in death…I can hear Omololu’s voice seeking out how we can use his life as a motivation for others to do more and talk less.

Maybe…just maybe we are beginning to see some of the fruits of his labour. Time will tell.

The strenght of any organisation/ngo/npo etc etc formed in these days of NGO proliferation is the survival of that organisation beyond the availability of the founder. Journalists Against AIDS in Nigeria (JAAIDS) is an excelent example of this.

For those who did not know him find some details below

Omololu is the founder/executive director of Journalists Against AIDS (JAAIDS), Nigeria. He was features editor of Nigeria’s largest-selling weekly, the Sunday Punch, from where he resigned in 2000 to run JAAIDS full-time. Omololu is a holder of a Bachelor in Dramatic Arts and a Masters in Political Science. At the 15th International AIDS conference in 2000, he won the International AIDS Society’s Young Investigator Award. The same year, he was named the winner of the Highway Africa Award for Innovative Use of New Media, an award that recognises outstanding and innovative use of the Internet in African journalism.

He was also a board member of The Black AIDS Institute (formerly the African American AIDS Policy & Training Institute), Los Angeles, USA; the Nigeria Youth AIDS Programme (NYAP); and the Positive Life Organisation (a support group for people living with HIV/AIDS). In 2001, he was appointed an Ashoka Fellow, joining an elite group of only 2000 ‘social entrepreneurs’ worldwide recognised for their outstanding and innovative approaches to ‘re-engineering society’. Over the past five years, he has been a prominent advocate on HIV/AIDS in Africa. In recognition of this, he was selected as the African NGO representative on the board of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) for 2004 and 2005. More recently, he has helped in convening the African Civil Society Coalition on HIV and AIDS, which serves as an umbrella movement
for organisations involved in HIV and AIDS advocacy and campaigns on the continent.

In recent years, Omololu has served in several capacities in the response to HIV/AIDS within and outside Nigeria: as media coordinator of the African Union Summit on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (2001); member, drafting committee of the Nigerian HIV Vaccine Plan, the National HIV Behaviour Change Communication Strategy and the 2005-2009 National HIV/AIDS Strategic Framework. He has contributed to several publications on HIV/AIDS, including the Communication Handbook on HIV Vaccine Trials in Developing Countries (UNAIDS, 2001), the Media Handbook on HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (JAAIDS/DevComs/UNIC, 2003) and Scorecard of Media Reporting of HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (JAAIDS, 2005).

Omololu has been active in the vaccine and advocacy field for several years. In 2003, he co-founded the Nigeria HIV Vaccine and Microbicides Advocacy Group (NHVMAG), serving as its Co-Coordinator and a strong part of the group’s backbone. He has led several media training programmes on HIV/AIDS in Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso and Zambia.

Omololu would be remembered as a dynamic, committed and resourceful AIDS activist whose contribution towards mitigating the impact of the epidemic would remain for a long time. He is survived by his wife, his two children, as well as siblings and an aged-mother

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

By Chikwe Ihekweazu

Chikwe Ihekweazu is an epidemiologist and consultant public health physician. He is the Editor of Nigeria Health Watch, and the Managing Partner of EpiAfric (, which provides expertise in public health research and advisory services, health communication and professional development. He previously held leadership roles at the South African National Institute for Communicable Diseases and the UK's Health Protection Agency. Chikwe has undertaken several short term consultancies for the World Health Organisation, mainly in response to major outbreaks. He is a TED Fellow and co-curator of TEDxEuston.

2 replies on “Good news on HIV/AIDS?”

Lori Heise, Aylur Kailasam emerge winners of Omololu Falobi Award for Excellence in HIV Prevention Research

NEW DELHI, FEBRUARY 26,2008:Srikrishnam Aylur Kailasam, Research Manager at the Y.R Gaitonde Centre for AIDS Research and Education in Chennai, India and Lori Heise, Director, Global Campaign for Microbicides,(GCM) based in Washington D.C. have emerged winners of the maiden edition of the Omololu Falobi Award for Excellence in HIV Prevention Research Community Advocacy.

The award comes with a $1,000 cash prize, a plaque and certification of recognition.

The winners were chosen by an independent international panel of HIV prevention research advocates and researchers including Dr Salim Abdool Karim,South Africa,Nomita Chandhiok, India, Tim Farley,Switzerland,Ndine Fance,Thailand,Sahuan Mellors,South Africa,Alex Menezes, Brazil, Kingsley Obom-Egbulem, Nigeria,Badri Saxena,India and Laurie Sylla, USA.

The award review committee was constituted and invited by the Awards Planning Committee to play this role.

The Omololu Falobi Awards was instituted in honour of late international journalists, AIDS activists and founder/Executive Director of Journalists Against AIDS (JAAIDS) Nigeria who was killed on October 5,2006 in Lagos.

The awards honours and highlights the essential role of leadership and community advocacy in HIV prevention research”, says Manju Chatani, Coordinator, and African Microbicides Advocacy Group (AMAG).

Omololu was a visionary leader and activist, who accomplished much in his short life. He dedicated himself to powerful advocacy around HIV and HIV prevention research in Nigeria, Africa and worldwide. He set new standards for HIV and AIDS journalisms on the continent and facilitated dialogue and engagement between communities, researchers, policy makers, media and civil society around vaccines and microbicides issues, said Mitchell Warren, Executive Director, AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition,(AVAC),New York.

Announcing the winners ahead of the opening ceremony of the 2008 Microbicide Conference holding in New Delhi, India, Chatani, said, “the award celebrates the life and values of this remarkable man and to create an ongoing legacy that recognizes his commitment and lasting contributions to HIV prevention research advocacy.”

The award was organised by the African Microbicides Advocacy Group (AMAG) in collaboration with Journalists Against AIDS (JAAIDS) Nigeria, the Global Campaign for Microbicides(GCM),the Nigeria HIV Vaccine & Microbicides Group(HHVMAG),the AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition(AVAC) and the Treatment Action Movement (TAM) with support from the Family Health International(FHI).

While Kailasam was honoured with the award for “Community Advocacy”, Heise was honored with the award for “International Leadership”.

According to the award selection committee, Kailasam was honoured for his pivotal role in working with and supporting marginalized communities in research settings. The committee noted his leadership in community research in India and his commitment to and respect for the communities that he works. This has not only enabled those communities to be more informed about research and its importance but also benefit from that research. A scientist and advocate, Kailsalam has worked to improve the quality of life of the communities he serves.

“The field of microbicide advocacy is the lengthened shadow of one woman, Lori Heise”. That was how one of Heise’s referees described her contribution to microbicides research advocacy. The committee couldn’t agree less.

Lori Heise was honoured for her leadership role and commitment to the involvement of communities in microbicides research as partners and her visionary role as founder of GCM. The section committee praised Heise’s role in cultivating leadership and inspiring advocates worldwide. She has led campaigns to build capacity, support leadership and implement joint programmes with NGOs, many of them now vital leaders in the microbicides world.

“This ward is important in keeping Omololu’ vision alive”, said Olayide Akanni, CEO, Journalists Against AIDS (JAAIDS) Nigeria.” It will be a visible and credible platform for ongoing recognition of the contributions of advocates and leaders to the HIV prevention research. We are pleased to honor two people who have made outstanding contributions to the field. Omololu would be proud of their work”.

Kingsley Obom-Egbulem
Head,Research and Communications

Well we have a problem of Hiv that can be sorted out using a model that is completely different from Darwins. You see most Scientist of nowadays still hold on to the fact that Evolution is an acceptable theory in Biology when it is nolonger the case.

For this reason we have enough theories citing the impossible about the origins of the disease and we still hold on to CD4 and evolution of the virus from Siamise in Monkeys when there is nothing to support it. This of course will indicate that the origin of the disease is Africa when it is not.

This particular theory is however set in motion by German students visiting Congo in 1994 and realising that the rapid spread Hiv in the area coincided with the Polio vaccination, leading to the conclusion that somehow Polio S viruses merged with Siamise virus (that is Retrovirus from Monkeys) to give life to the Hiv Virus in Humans/Africans to begin with.

While this theory is demonstrable false, it is still surprising how that position has affected attitude towards West Africans and the disease. I shall say for now that Darwin’s theory of evolution is wrong of many counts and misleading in many more. That no living molecular biologist with enough background in Genetic engineering can take it seriously. This hold on Darwin is part of the reason why nothing is done to cure the Hiv diseases…inspite of the many information out there.

Let those who want to put an end to this sickness begin by placing enough doubt on Darwins theory of Evolution and transmutation and let them also seek to understand that Hiv is first and foremostly a cold virus…initially diagnosed as Pneumasistic Carrini Pneumonia, a cold impressed Virus that attarck the red blood spleen in Humans only.

2, that Hiv is like Avian Virus that passed from Male to Male…that is to say, that the disease is retrovirus; it can stand Human defense system/ immune system. There are other facts that can help sort Hiv but we begin from here.

Sampson Iroabuchi Onwuka

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