This week I think I will start off by talking about work, as it was slightly different this week and I guess I am out here to work after all. So besides the usual giving talks to schools, we also visited 3 HIV patients (and gave them each some money that Louise's friend donated) and did a radio broadcast to the local village.
Visiting the HIV patients was very interesting. On the Thursday we visited 2 who lived in the same village - both very poor and living out of 1 room only. One of the patients had had the virus for 8 years and the other 5 and both were struggling to live with it. Neither of them were able to hold down jobs and both relied on children for support. Neither could afford health insurance (20 Cedi for a year), yet they both have to have 2 checkups a year costing 60 Cedi a time! I think the most noticeable thing I got from what the 2 women said was how worried they were about other people finding out about the fact they were HIV positive. Both had only told a very small selection of people (about 3 at most) and one of them was even keeping it a secret from her son-in-law. I think that shows the importance of awareness in a country like Ghana, even though it has a relatively low HIV infection stats, the stigma against those who do have the virus is very definitely shown through discrimination against them. The 3rd patient we visited was in an entirely different situation. She had a job and insurance and felt no real ill effects of having the virus. She has had it for 6 years, although only been taking ARVs for the past 3 years after her husband died from it. I think the hardest thing to accept about meeting this patient is her current situation. She has a child by her long term partner, although has not told him that she is HIV positive. She told us that if she told him then he would leave her and tell the entire village that she was infected, and again due to stigma she would be discriminated against and people would stop buying food from the shop she worked at. Although I understand the reasons behind her not telling her partner, I think that I find it very hard to understand how morally you can knowingly put somebody at risk of contracting the virus.
As for the radio show, this was done on Thursday evening and organised in the typical Ghanaian way. In other words, everything ran late. It was meant to run at 7pm and Helen was meant to come, but surprise surprise nobody was there at 7 and Helen mysteriously was called away for a meeting in Accra. We eventually started at about half 7 and the programme was broadcast to the entire community across speakers dotted throughout the village. I think that being able to hear your voice over the speakers is incredibly nerve racking, but I guess the only purpose of me speaking (and indeed Louise) was to make people believe us more (as we were white people speaking in English), as nobody really understood us and it was all translated into Twi.
Apart from work, naturally there was a little travel involved. This weekend we went down to Kokrobite (a beach near Accra) as both Rus and Louise were leaving (yes, Rus did actually go this time). The beach itself was nice and for once it didn't rain - which is always a bonus! I don't really know what there is to say about going to a beach so I won't try and bore you all with excessive amount of detail.
So now I am all alone at Tiyah and am changing projects in 2 weeks! Tom is going to be living in the same house I move to which is nice, and I am just going to speak to Helen to get the details of my new family now.
Until next time,
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