Dr. Georges Tiendrebedraogo, Royal Tropical Institute, The Netherlands and advisor, LWR partner ACI
If you work with AIDS, you give yourself completely to the work.
Prevention is just as important as the treatment we give at the hospital.
WHAT WAS THE HIV/AIDS SITUATION IN THE BEGINNING?
At the time we didn't know how to tell the patients themselves. We were much more interested in the origins of the disease than the sick people themselves. I think in the last 10, 15 years a lot has changed in Senegal. We do the test and tell the patient. We help them psychologically, with moral support. There are even spiritual groups that help in the hospitals, etc.
All of this helps absolutely, at many levels. Especially for the patients themselves because we don't have access to the effective anti-retroviral drugs, there is a need to counsel them psychologically. To help them understand the situation, to make decisions, to plan for the future, and for the families as well.
It's not simply one person who is affected, but it is all the family. It is the whole
neighborhood, the whole community that is infected.
AIDS always starts with a visual diagnosis". People look at you; see that you have lost weight, and that you are often sick.
Then everyone knows there is a problem and they say "Its AIDS". You are no longer Paul or John - but someone who has AIDS becomes "the one who has AIDS". Then it is the whole family. When you go to school, if you go out, you are all suspect. The people say "in this house, someone has AIDS." Next, it goes beyond the family to your friends. Should I let my friend play in that house where there is AIDS? And afterwards the whole region gets a reputation. ...Even in the country we have begun to label 'zones' where it is dangerous.
WHY IS SENEGAL SO GOOD?
In Senegal, from the beginning there has been solidarity against AIDS. It is essential that this happen.
WHAT ARE THE OPTIONS OF THE POOR?
One of our colleagues said "When you say to them that they have one chance in three of getting AIDS, for them it is that them have two chances in three of not getting AIDS." Because you risk dying of a lot of other things before AIDS.
WHAT IS THE RICHNESS OF THE POOR?
So one can say poverty is a general factor, but at the same time there is also richness among the poor. The way which people responded to the epidemic here in Senegal has a community base. In the villages in women's groups, or youth groups the people reflect and say, "what are WE going to do?" Being poor does not stop them. This is the big difference in approach, even in poverty, of Senegal.
WHAT IS ACIs ROLE?
ACI is a good model. I know it well. It may be one of the fundamental things beating AIDS in Senegal. ACI works with people where they are, and works to reinforce their capacity.
I was a medical teacher and advisor with ACI. We had to do a bit of everythingprevention, teaching, treatment. For me it was a 20-year apprenticeship.
In view of what I said before the solidarity, the synergy between individuals and groups. The comprehension, first of this disease and what it can do to us.
DO PEOPLE UNDERSTAND THIS?
Absolutely. People are intelligent, and they understand what they have to do. If they must do something else, to escape this illness, they will be it abstinence, religion, there are many ways to respond to this illness. There are many options, when one has understood the problem.
WHAT IS YOUR PERSONAL COMMITMENT?
I was an emergency room doctor and I knew AIDS was a sickness. But when I saw the questions that the young people were asking in school, I understood that we would not win the war against AIDS in the hospital.
One encounters a lot of people, and especially people living with HIV. You really feel that you MUST do something, no matter what the price!
You realize that you don't know how to do everything and that everyone has something to give, and that you can help them give it.
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