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Saturday, December 28, 2013

How Cameroon and other countries in Africa are actively fighting the HIV/AIDS pandemic

There is a speculation that HIV might have originated in an African monkey and crossed to humans. Skeptics argue that the HIV virus developed from a malaria experiment that missed the mark. Regardless on one's viewpoint of the virus' origin, it is important to remember that Africans have actively tackled the disease and the stigma in numerous ways.

African countries are fighting the HIV/AIDS pandemic. (Photo: FreeDigitalPhotos.net)
"People have also advanced abstract or metaphysical explanation for the origin of AIDS, explanations often grounded in religious and scientific narratives" (Bongmba 13). While these speculations may someday give us concrete answers about the rise and spread of HIV/AIDS, the most important task that faces the human community, scientists, and the medical community in particular is not only containing the spread of the virus, but eradicating that virus.


Today, the imperative to do something about HIV/AIDS is undeniable. If one were to look at the African context, the rate of prevalence in some countries remains in the double digits. Many continue to see the continent as the epicenter of the disease. Growing up in Cameroon, I was very aware of these efforts because public discussions were held at primary schools, high schools, universities, churches, religious rallies and market squares to educate people about HIV/AIDS. Many intellectuals, religious leaders, local politicians, women leaders, global organizations have joined the fight against the spread of the HIV/AIDS.

Africans have fought HIV/AIDS in different ways. First, many efforts have gone into the prevention of the virus from spreading. One prevention method that has been arrived at following discussions with the religious leaders and public health officials is the ABC (Abstinence, Being faithful and using Condoms) method. Where the letter "A" stands for abstinence. The religious authorities liked this and as a result, they targeted children, youths, and young adults with messages urging them to abstain from sexual intercourse. 

The letter "B" as used in the (ABC) signifies being faithful. This applies mostly to those in relationships. The idea here is that people should refrain from sexual relationships with different partners other than their wives/husbands or girl/boyfriends. This by no means encourages promiscuity. Supporters of the use of condoms see this as an important public health issue. They argue that the proper use of condoms could prevent the transmission of the HIV virus and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

Programs have been established  in Cameroon.  (Photo: FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Secondly, since HIV is transmitted through contaminated blood products-one method of prevention has been the extensive use of sterilized equipment in hospitals, barbers shops, homes and saloons. This process can be very effective in stopping the transmission of the virus from one individual to another as well as reducing the health risk faced by the medical staff. Early detection of the virus also helps. Scientists and medical personnel argue that if we know that someone is infected, this makes it easy to address safety issues that could go a long way in limiting the spread of the virus. 

The Cameroon Baptist Convention Health Board (CBCHB) led by Professor Pius Tih has established prevention programs that use effective approaches in their work in the rural and urban areas of Cameroon. They have promoted education and counseling programs that continue to work with people infected with the HIV virus to know that such a diagnosis is no longer a death sentence.

The Baptist Health Board has also served children orphaned by HIV/AIDS. They call these children the "chosen" ones to underscore that the children are special even if they have lost one or both parents to HIV. Most African health institutions and hospitals especially in Zimbabwe, Uganda, Swaziland, South Africa, Nigeria and Cameroon have promoted the screening of all blood supplies for the virus and by heat-treating blood products where possible.

Many physicians, health care professionals, scientists, and those engaged in the fight against the disease point out that effective education has led to a decline in the number of new cases diagnosed. Christian communities have also turned to the Bible to seek the voice of God in the crisis.

Pregnant women and children are the' primary beneficiarie. (Photo: FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

The Prevention of the Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) was also introduced in Cameroon. The PMTCT program was to prevent the transmission of HIV/AIDS and other diseases from the pregnant mother to her unborn child.  In 2003, the PMTCT  run by the Cameroon Baptist Health Board Program received an International Leadership Award from Elizabeth Glaser Pediatrics AIDS Foundation (EGPAF). This has enabled the Board to train leaders and service providers from all over Cameroon and some  West African countries  in the field. 

This program saved the lives of many children, especially newborns. The use of a drug  called nevirapine was given to mothers in order to reduce the risk of transmitting HIV. The program has been proven as a strong tool to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Subsequently, another sub group came into existence. In 2004, another program called the Mother to Child Transmission-Plus (MTCT-Plus) started with a grant from Columbia University in New York City, USA. The program with funding from Columbia was to provide follow-ups for an increasing number of HIV positive pregnant women and their families. In Cameroon, the MTCT-Plus was rapidly expanded to five clinical sites: Banso and Mbingo Baptist Hospitals and Nkewn (Bamenda), Mutegene and Mpobbi (Douala) Baptist health centers. 

Another way in which the Cameroon Baptist Convention Health Board (CBCHB) fought against the HIV/AIDS pandemic is by establishing Support Groups. These Support Groups are HIV infected people who come together to share experiences and receive training on how to live positively with the disease. Through the CBCHB , Support Groups have received education on health promotion and disease prevention, including family planning and referrals for family planning services.

Cameroon and other countries in Africa have seriously and effectively undertaken HIV/AIDS prevention for all people, whether they are Christians or non-Christians, married or single, young or old, women or men, poor or rich, black or white.

Editor's note: This paper is a condensed version of a research paper done on the fight against HIV/AIDS in Africa. The research paper concentrated mostly on the Sub-Saharan countries, particularly the Republic of Cameroon. 

Works cited
Bongmba, Elias K. Facing a Pandemic, The African Church and The Crisis of AIDS. Waco: Baylor University Press, 2007. Print
Dube, Musa W. The HIV& AIDS Bible: Selected Essays. Scranton: University of Scranton Press, 2008. Print.
Patterson, Amy S. The Politics of AIDS in Africa. Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2006. Print.
Isabel Phiri, Beverly Hadded and Madipoane Masenya. African Women HIV/AIDS and Faith Communities. Pietermaritzburg:  Cluster Publications, 2003. Print.
Cameroon Baptist Convention Health Board. "Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) of HIV." Cameroon Baptist Convention Health Services. 
N.D. www.cbhealthservices.org. October 30, 2012 & www.avert.org