I am a Nigerian doctor. Here’s how I am working to eliminate AIDS in Africa
Editor’s note: Adeola Raji submitted her following personal story to Global Young Voices. You too can submit yours to us here.
I am Adeola, 25 years old and born in Ibadan, Nigeria. My father was a great motivation and challenge to me as he was always making an impact everywhere he went; this encouraged and made me believe in myself.
At 11 years old, I heard about an infection that if contracted meant a death sentence as there was no cure for it. This directed my attention to learning about HIV/AIDS. At 13, I became a trained peer educator under the UNICEF and NYSC Reproductive Health & HIV/AIDS Preventive Project. This developed my interest towards choosing my career path in HIV prevention.
During my admission to enter college, I wanted to study MBBS which is often 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 later. After 4 years, I was posted to the Delta State Primary Health Care Development Agency for compulsory service to the country (NYSC). At that moment I decided to follow the public health profession as it provided the opportunity to address a large population of people, encouraging them to live in good health by setting up preventive measures and healthy living.
During this period, I had the opportunity to speak to women on the importance of exclusive breastfeeding and immunization for their children. This yielded a 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; I was able to put my potential to use as I received various opportunities to speak to people on 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 preventive measures and encourage regular testing alongside adherence counseling to those on ARV drugs. I have been part of many HIV outreaches conducted to test the general public; recently I was part of the Agency members who passed the anti-stigmatization bill into law to protect people living with HIV.
A few months after I joined the Agency, I enrolled for a Masters in Public Health (Reproductive and Family Health) in order to enhance my knowledge on the public health field. During my coursework, I attended the 3rd Society for public health professionals of Nigeria (SPHPN)/2nd African Federation of Public Health Association conference which was held in Nigeria. Then I contested for an executive position in the SPHPN (YP&S) assembly and was elected as the pioneer and current treasurer of the association. Prior to this, I disliked the political scene but I knew it was high time I stopped being passive and joined the movement for youth involvement in all spheres. Shortly after, I was motivated to cofound an initiative called ISAVE (I stand against violence everywhere) which sought to teach high school students on preventive measures and which actions to take when faced with any form of violence such as physical, sexual and emotional violence. In my research it was revealed that in-school adolescents believe that sexual violence cannot result in the contracting of HIV/AIDS which is a myth and must be corrected, this was a key area the students were educated on.
Towards the end of 2016, I coordinated an event called SDGsNG; Youth Meet-Up. This enlightened 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 this.
In March 2017, I had my internship with APIN Public Health at Igando General Hospital where I supervised the HIV testers while advocating and creating HIV awareness campaigns in the surrounding communities. I also tracked patients who were not adhering to their drugs uptake or were not visiting the hospital again alongside enrolling new patients.
I currently work for FHI 360 Ibadan as a volunteer for SNT/PNFP (Sexual Network Tracing/Partner Notification Focal Person) 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 are unaware of it; research found that over three quarters of HIV transmission is through sexual activities. The newly tested positive clients are placed on ARV. This work aims to reach our goal: zero prevalence of HIV by 2030 (UNAIDS 90:90:90)
Cover cartoon credit: Sergio Algeri/GYV
Photos credit: Adeola Raji