Unification News for November 2002

IIFWP HIV/AIDS Education in Nigeria

by George M. Ogurie

This report was presented at the IIFWP Convocation 2002, New York City, September 20-23, 2002.

I believe everyone here is aware of the seriousness of the AIDS situation in Africa. According to the UNAIDS 2001 Situation Report, about 25 million have been infected in Sub-Saharan Africa. This awareness prompted the IIFWP World Chairman, Rev. Chung Hwan Kwak to challenge all African Peace Ambassadors at a Regional Leadership Seminar held in Nairobi, Kenya, June 2001, to join forces in fighting the AIDS pandemic. He took the lead by commissioning his office in New York to produce an HIV/AIDS educational presentation suitable for use in Africa, what became known as: Living AIDS Free - The Zero Transmission Lifestyle.

The material is designed for use in secondary schools but the content is quite applicable to the wider society. Basically it urges young people to delay sex until they become mature men and women and then get married and also urges married people to restrict sex within their marital relationships. This is the absolute solution to HIV/AIDS.

By the end of October 2001 the materials were ready; and by Mid-November 120 sets of flipcharts had arrived in Lagos, Nigeria. Each set of flipcharts contains 40 sheets and together conveys the above message graphically and very powerfully. It was great wisdom to produce the flipcharts as the medium for a visual presentation. In most rural communities that needed to be reached, either there is no electricity or if there is, it is very unreliable. Therefore one could not use media such as slides or power-point projectors.

Under the guidance of Mrs. Kathy Rigney, Senior Advisor to the World Chairman on Africa, a Regional Seminar was held in Lagos, the last week of November 2001, for Educators and Presenters on the material just received. Participants came from 10 countries, including – Benin Republic, Cameroon, Congo Democratic Republic, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, South Africa and Zambia. Afterwards, each representative returned with 12 sets of flipchart.

In Nigeria, at a General Meeting of Peace Ambassadors and IIFWP members the flipchart was presented and adopted with thanks to Reverend Kwak and his staff at IIFWP Headquarters. The Peace Ambassadors felt it necessary to organize a seminar for stakeholders in Lagos State to acquaint them with the material being presented to their children. An HIV/AIDS seminar was thus held on 18 December 2001 at the Nigerian Institute for Medical Research, whose Director General is a Peace Ambassador. Participants were drawn from the Ministries of Education, Health, Information, Women Affairs and Youth and Sports. Other participants include representatives from the State House of Assembly, Association of School Principals, Religious Leaders, Deans of Student Affairs of major higher institutions, Student Union leaders and Editors of major news media.

To ensure that the event was properly presented in the news media we appointed media editors to be heads of discussion groups. At the end they constituted the panel which drafted the communiqué that went to press. News coverage afterwards was excellent. We had learned from a previous experience. After a presentation at a College of Education, a reporter wrote that one of our speakers had said he had heard that students of the college were very promiscuous and so he had come to warn them of the dangers of AIDS. That was totally a fabrication by the reporter but it made the students so upset at us.

The Lagos State Ministry of Education issued a written directive to all secondary schools in the state to expect and welcome our team. From December 2001 until July 2002 our Lagos team alone covered a total of 246 secondary schools. At an average of 1,000 students per school, it means 246,000 students were educated within the period.

In the previous years we had done HIV/AIDS education in 15 states in Nigeria under the banner of Family Federation for World Peace and Unification. Churches, local communities and schools were covered. There were no flipcharts then but the impact was nonetheless powerful enough to elicit the Lagos State Government recognition and invitation to join the Lagos State Action Committee on HIV/AIDS, now known as the Lagos State AIDS foundation. March this year, IIFWP was invited to the Presidential Forum on AIDS in Abuja.

The Director of the National AIDS and STD’s Control Program commented, ". . your program has the best chance of success in Nigeria because it is in concert with the culture and religious belief of the people." The Director, who himself is a Medical Doctor, recognized that presentations made by doctors tend to be too technical and dry. On the other hand, our presentations are, to the large part, made in simple language and from the heart and therefore very moving. We are no doctors but we are deeply concerned people. It is therefore very easy for people to relate to and be moved by our presentation.

One chief testified that since our team came to his town a year-and-a-half ago and made a presentation he had stopped going out at nights. Many students have also testified, after our presentation, that this is first time they have heard someone speak so confidently and convincingly that it is wrong to engage in premarital sex as teenagers.

George Ogurie is Secretary General, IIFWP-Nigeria

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