Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

What Happens When Older Persons Take the Lead in HIV Prevention in This Rural Community

September 27, 2013

Last week, I witnessed a different side of an HIV awareness campaign- one I have never thought deeply about. That is, involving older persons in the fight against the spread of HIV.

As the world marks International Day of Older Persons on October 1st, 2013 with the theme: “The future we want: what older persons are saying,” it's a good time to share an excerpt from a photo story I created on how older persons made a remarkable impact in encouraging young persons to come out and be tested during a medical outreach trip in Agunji, a village in North central Nigeria.

According to one of the members of the medical team, the purpose of the Agunji medical outreach sponsored by an international organization was to raise awareness about HIV and AIDS. The team planned to provide free Voluntary Counseling and Testing (VCT) for the people while also informing them about the anti-stigma bill that has been passed into law in Nasarawa state. The law seeks to protect people affected by or living with HIV/AIDS in Nasarawa state from stigma and discrimination.

There are about eighty thousand (80,000) people living with HIV in the state, according to statistics released by the Nasarawa State AIDS Control Agency (NASACA). With a 7.5% prevalence rate, the state currently has one of the highest rates in Nigeria. Medical outreach in rural areas is one of the strategies set up by the state to fight the spread of the virus.

 The villagers said they were suspicious of the intentions of the medical team. After deliberating among themselves, the older men concluded that the government could not possibly have sent the medical staffs to inject them with what will kill them.

When the one-day HIV awareness campaign kicked off in Agunji that morning, only older persons in the community came to the venue. The villagers said they were suspicious of the intentions of the medical team. After deliberating among themselves, the older men concluded that the government could not possibly have sent the medical staffs to inject them with what will kill them. After a while, the younger age group in the village joined the volunteers to take part in the outreach."  Read the full story here.

HIV and AIDS awareness is important for older persons because they can actively participate in passing on the knowledge to their family and positively influence a healthy lifestyle. Mariama Usman, above, is in her early 60s, registering for the Voluntary Counseling and Testing (VTC) session after the opening lecture.

Usman, above, being led to the queue for an HIV test.

Usman waiting her turn at the testing session. When the younger generation saw the active participation of the older persons, they were inspired to join.


Usman is being tested for HIV. About 70 people were tested that day in the small community, before the medical team ran out of testing kits.

Counselling was available at the community. Usman, during the post-HIV test counseling.

The Anti-Retroviral Treatment centre at Nasawara state’s secondary health centre has a mandate to carry out medical outreach in rural areas to ensure the people in villages are not left out in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Older persons, in their actions, are saying: TOGETHER WE CAN HAVE A HIV-FREE GENERATION!

Read the full story here.


 
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