May 17, 2011

Today I visited an Organization called Spring of Hope. This visit was probably the most incredible, rewarding and intense experience I have ever had. Farah, who is pictured below runs the organization and is HIV positive. She basically volunteers and counsels other HIV positive individuals and also talks with many women in hospitals about getting tested, especially if they are pregnant, so that if they are positive they can be given the medicine to lessen the chance of mother to child transmission. Many of the women here have no idea they have the disease, especially if there husbands are unfaithful, or have never told their wives that they have the disease and then pass it to them.
Farah has been living with HIV for 9 years now and lost both her son and husband to the disease. She is the most passionate woman I have ever met and really makes a difference in lives around the community by discussing the issue that is rarely addressed due to stigmatization. Her organization is not even funded by the Nigerian government, but by ours. USAID funds a lot of what the organization does and also provides all of the anti-retro viral medications that are given to HIV positive patients. Nigerians with the disease and their families are so grateful–we told them that HIV positive patients in the US don’t get the drugs for free and that they are ridiculously expensive.
After talking with Farah at Spring of Hope, we walked over to the hospital where the HIV/AIDS testing and care center was. This was also an OB/GYN clinic for pregnant women and regular women who were needing care. Here is a photo I took of the front of the hospital and of the town we walked through to get there:
I saw today what many will never see in a lifetime; things I have read about and seen in pictures taken by photo journalists. I will never again complain about our health care system and I know no one else would either if they saw the conditions in this hospital that I did today. We first walked into the center to over 100 women waiting to see the doctor. They get to the hospital early in the morning and sometimes wait until night fall, just to be seen by the OB/GYN. Not to mention, the stifling 100+ degree weather and all being crammed into a small room. It was chaos. Farah took us in to meet all the doctors, while they were seeing patients, which was kind of awkward for us anyway…they obviously did not care. I also saw a premature baby with her mother…the little guy probably weighed no more that 3 pounds. Farah then spoke in front of all the women in Hausa, so we had a hard time understanding, but it was still a great experience allowing me to really make comparisons between our system and the Nigerians. Here is a photo that does close to little of capturing how many women were waiting to be seen:

This is another photo of the hospital grounds-it literally was a dirt area with concrete buildings.

I took few photos here because I felt it wasn’t really appropriate. I also had no desire to physically remember what I saw. After Farah’s talk we headed over to the in patent center, which was all women. The men and women are separated. This was really the most difficult thing to see out of the whole experience. There were probably a dozen patients, 2 of them were HIV positive patients not in good condition at all. Both were young girls around the age of 15 and one of the girls had two female family members with her. The girl was sitting up in her bed trying to get dressed and was extremely weak–which I was not surprised by-she looked like a skeleton, and neither one of her family members would help her. Farah had to go over and help her get dressed while they stood back and watched. Farah later told us that they are scared to touch her because they don’t want the disease. This is an example of what a negative stigma there is on being HIV positive, even within the family.
The majority of women n the in patient clinic were all extremely skinny and malnourished, which could also have been a side effect from the disease. The beds that weren’t being used had dirty sheets with blood stains on them and beds were marked with a number that was written in chalk on the wall above it. The experience is really indescribable. It is still just hard to believe, even after seeing it, that people in our world live like this. We all should be so grateful for all we have.

Totally random side note-this is how meat is sold here..yummy right?

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4 Responses to “”

  1. Lauren this post made me tear up…. The things you are experiencing are remarkable. Thank you so much for sharing.
    love, whit

  2. Mary Anne said

    So interesting, Lauren. Your descriptions make my heart break, as much as for you as for the locals. I’ll keep you in my prayers as you open your mind and heart to these awarenesses. Be brave! Be open! And have confidence in God. I am so proud of you.

  3. Dad said

    Lauren, I have shared your posts with some friends of mine and they all have commented on your experiences in Nigeria. Like myself they have never
    known such poverty or human suffering still existed
    on such a large scale. Some of the pictures and your
    posts are difficult to comprehend. Looking forward to talking with you when you return home.
    Love

  4. Seun said

    Lauren,very interesting writings on your experiences here in Nigeria. I’d like to send you an invitation, but I’d be needing your email address to send more details. Look forward to geting your response to sjohnson@ayakaonline.com

    Thanks.

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