Thursday, 2 December 2010

December 1st...

Yesterday, 1st December, was Journée Mondiale de Lutte contre le Sida - World Aids Day, for Anglophones.

So there was a big parade in Bobo for all Associations involved in VIH-SIDA, ours included. Everyone gathered outside the iconic railway station, hung around for a bit chatting, donned our various and much coveted t-shirts, unfurled our banners and set off down the newly tarmaced avenue toward the Gouvernorat. Led by a lorry with the obligatory sound system, belting out various VIH-SIDA songs, of which there are plenty, and with disc jockey types yelling out publicity and health messages.

Impressive (if also depressing) to see how many people in Bobo are active in this domain, many on a voluntary basis. A huge pool of effort and goodwill.

On reaching the Gouvernorat, there were speeches, a comic sketch on a VIH theme, and lots more music, disc jockey comment and clapping. Then the lorry, laden with t-shirted and noisy passengers, set off on a tour on the main roads round town spreading the messages and promoting the afternoon’s activities, ending up at the centre which co-ordinates VIH-SIDA activity.

There a repas communautaire ensued – vast vats of riz gras (rice with some veg and meat) were served up. People eat in groups of 5-10, and each group gets given a plastic (washing up) bowl full of food to share, eating with fingers, having washed their hands first. The ladies with green headdresses are from the Nigerian community.

Elsewhere, there was free testing (with counselling), theatre with HIV-AIDS messages, distribution of leaflets and condoms and of course more music. The whole event featured strong attendance from 'the authorities' and a lot of media attention - fortunately it also coincided with a training course for local journalists being mounted by a French organisation. Cameras everywhere.

An impressive show of commitment and commitment is still very much needed – HIV-AIDS may be much better understood than it was, but there are still huge problems of ignorance, stigmatisation, non-availability of drugs and lack of money to pay for treatment.

There is a huge discrepancy in the facilities and treatment on offer around the world – a couple of telling facts (thanks to Eve):
• Mother-child transmission has been virtually eliminated in Canada, but is still common here.
• Average life expectancy for those diagnosed HIV+ in Canada (adults and children) is 31 years.
• 64% of HIV+ babies here will not make it to their first birthday. The other 36% have an average life expectancy of 16.

Is one day enough?

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