Adeola Raji: Aspiring policymaker making a difference in HIV world
Adeola Raji, 25, Nigeria
I am Adeola and was born in Ibadan, Nigeria. My father has been a great motivation to me as he is always leaving an impact everywhere he goes. This encouraged me and made me believe in myself.
At the age of 11, I heard about an infection which if contracted means getting a death sentence as there was no cure for it then. This was what got my attention to learn more about HIV/AIDS. At 13, I became a trained peer educator under the UNICEF and NYSC Reproductive Health & HIV/AIDS Preventive Project. That’s what made me choose a career path in HIV prevention.
Before my admission to college, I wanted to study MBBS, which is usually the dream of any science student. I was turned down and offered Physiology at the University of Ibadan. I had no choice but to accept it with the mindset of returning to study MBBS. After four years, I was posted to Delta State Primary Health Care Development Agency for the compulsory service to the country (NYSC). It was there I finally decided to follow the public health profession as it provided the opportunity to address a large population of people to live in good health by setting preventive measures to healthy living.
During this period, I was opportune to speak to women on the importance of exclusive breastfeeding and immunization for their children. This yielded positive impact as there was large turnout of women who brought out their wards for the polio immunization which took place shortly after.
Immediately after NYSC, I joined Oyo State Agency for the Control of AIDS as a volunteer till date. I was able to put my potentials into use as I got various opportunities to speak to people on the methods of transmission, prevention and reasons for regular testing. My first outing was to represent the agency at the State Ministry of Information. I also had opportunities to speak with young people (as they were my target) on the preventive measures and encouraged regular testing and also adherence counseling to those on ARV drugs. Recently, I was part of the members of the agency who passed the anti-stigmatization bill into law to protect people living with HIV.
Few months after I joined the agency, I enrolled for Masters in Public Health (Reproductive and Family Health) as it was going to enhance my knowledge on the public health field. During my coursework, I attended the third Society for Public Health Professional of Nigeria (SPHPN)/second African Federation of Public Health Association conferenc,e which was held in Nigeria.
Then, I contested for an executive position in the SPHPN (YP&S) assembly and was elected the pioneering and current treasurer of the association. Prior to this, I hated anything election but I knew it was high time I stopped being passive and join the movement for youth involvement in all spheres. Shortly after, I was motivated to cofound an initiative ISAVE (I stand against violence everywhere) which was to teach high school students on the preventive measures and what actions to take when faced with any form of violence such as domestic violence, denial of female education, negative and traditional practices, FGM.
Towards the end of last year, I coordinated an event SDGsNG; Youth Meet-Up. This was to enlighten various youth leaders on domesticating SDGs into their various programs as one of the reasons why MDG failed was the non-involvement of youth and the achievement of SDGs is greatly dependent on our involvement.
Currently, I work for FHI 360 Ibadan where I elicit for people at risk of HIV especially their sexual partners from PLWHIV to get tested. This is a new method of detecting people living with the virus but unaware as research found that over three quarter of HIV transmission is through sexual activities.
I love meeting people and leaving good memories with them. I want to be a policymaker, a role model to the younger ones and mentor to many. I want to create a healthy future for the coming generation. I am looking forward to meeting other young visionary leaders from around the world who have dreams and passion to change the world.