Delivering the message on the dangers of HIV
On the 29th of September Bray People covered the story of Maeve Galvin's Global Awareness Volunteer in Nigeria.
Most of the passengers on the dangerously overcrowded vehicle are HIV positive. Bray woman Maeve Galvin has accompanied them to a clinic far from their rural homes. They waited there for up to eight hours to get the drugs they so badly needed.
Maeve returned from Africa three weeks ago and is still talking about her experience working on a HIV and AIDS awareness programme. “I have traveled a lot,” she said. “But I have never before felt that sense of really seeing things and really living.” And she really saw the vast spectrum of life in the city of Ilesa, from crippling poverty to incredible wealth in stark contrast. “One minute you’re talking to sex workers in a brothel, the next attending a tribal ceremony, or on a private beach with models,” said the Fr. Colohan Terrace resident. A freelance journalist by profession, she holds a degree in Journalism and a Masterns in development Studies. The 24-year-old was awarded the placement as part of EIL’s Global Awareness programme and liaised with an NGO on the ground.
She carried out interviews, spoke to prostitutes and their clients about the use of condoms female condoms, and took a number of vieo clips which will form the basis of a short documentary. In short, Maeve was charged with the task of bringing her story back home. “There is also a need to encourage awareness at home,” she said. “One person is diagnosed with HIV in Ireland every day.”
One of the problems she helped identify in Ilesa was that the female sex workers were using Vaseline in conjunction with condoms. “We explained that the practice was counter-productive and ended up providing them with alternatives.”
They spoke to soldiers, police and traffic wardens t oeducate them on the use of female condoms. “The idea behind that was to empower the woman to make the choice,” she said.
Maeve also passed on her knowledge of post exposure prophylaxis or ‘PEP’ drugs to the local NGO. PEP drugs are used in the aftermath of exposure to the virus, for example by infected blood in a clinic or via rape. “It can stop the virus,” she said. “The treatment wasn’t there but they now have a PEP programme in the NGO.”
Fummi, the NGO accountant, was Maeve’s 27-year-old hostess, and the two formed a close bond, along with 9-year-old Dmmy, a nephew of Fummi’s fiancée who lives in her house. Staying in a basic two-bedroom house, Maeve didn’t want for anything and was very comfortable there. “I was lucky enough to attend a Nigerian wedding during my stay,” she said, adding that they are e much larger affairs there than in Ireland. “A wedding of 200 people would be considered small!”
The reality of death, poverty, illness, prostitution and injustice was a lot of to take in but Maeve was spurred on by what she saw. “It motivates you to say “what can I do?” When a woman just a year older than me was diagnosed with HIV, I said “I need to talk more to sex workers and see what can be done.”
In the seven local brothels, Maeve and another volunteer built up trusting relationships with the girls. “We didn’t go in preaching and lecturing,” she said. “They would play with my hair and we would talk. Some of them were so graceful and beautiful.” Men were asked to keep away during those talks. Most of the clients were young, unemployed, married men, with nothing much else to do. “Unemployment and poverty leads both men and women towards the sex industry which propagates that vicious cycle of HIV/AIDS,” explained Maeve.
Women who have been infect fear for their babies in childbirth . The child could become infected in the womb, during the birth or by breastfeeding and there is a rush to give a new baby formula as soon as it arrives in the world. Maeve was place in the HIV care and support department, but also spent some time with the orphans and vulnerable children. “There were a couple of thousand children there either orphaned or with parents who had been diagnosed positive,” she said. “The tragedy is that the government had failed to deliver on a promise of free education materials for them.” She interviewed the children to make a visual petition for their governor, and Maeve found their articulacy and selflessness remarkable.
“They asked for things for their community, not themselves,” she said. “Children as young as 9 asked for better roads in the area, and more jobs for the adults.”
One of the best memories of Maeve’s adventure was the fun they had on that bus trop back from the clinic, a spark of merriment in the midst of a daunting struggle. To donate money to HIV and AIDS awareness programme or for more information, email email@example.com.