Fadekemi Akinfaderin-Agarau is one of the co-founders and current Executive Director of Education as a Vaccine (EVA). A fierce campaigner for HIV/Aids awareness in Nigeria. She gave this speech at a recent TEdxEuston event where she talked about finding your calling and fighting the pandemic in Nigeria.
Fadekemi was brave enough to follow her heart and abandon medical school much to the chagrin of her parents, when she found out that what she actually wanted to do, was help save lives after a summer working with people with HIV.
She was only 20, but she moved to Nigeria from the US to start her NGO aimed at educating young people about HIV/AIDS.
Nigeria has the second largest number of people living with HIV/AIDS in the world, second only to South Africa.
According to statistics by a Government official, the Director-General of the Nations Action Committee on AIDS, NACA, Prof. John Idoko, there are currently 281, 000 new infections every year and about 3 million people in total are thought to have the disease.
Young women make up the vast majority of those affected and at risk of contracting the condition and it would seem that they are also the most stigmatised.
Private schools in Nigeria often request a HIV test before candidates are even considered for admission. This is neither here nor there when it is actually universities who should lead the way in teaching and educating the public on HIV/AIDS, not fueling the paranoia.
HIV/AIDS is slowly eating away at our youths and future, unless we fight the stigma and support those who are living with the condition, our culture of silence and judgment might actually be counterproductive.
Ask yourself, what would you do if a friend, acquaintance or family told you they had HIV/AIDS? Would you push them away? Would you support them? Or would you start rebuking and judging them and then cut them out of your social circle?
It’s a condition, not a death sentence. Let’s treat each other with respect and dignity no matter what colour, health condition or financial status, we’re all human beings and deserve the basic right to live.