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Nigeria: AIDS, Media, and Prof. Ransome-Kuti
Africa Policy E-Journal
June 22 2003 (030622)
Nigeria: AIDS, Media, and Prof. Ransome-Kuti
(Reposted from sources cited below)
In Nigeria in recent years journalists have been among those most
active in campaigning for recognition of the threat from AIDS,
against stigma, and for action on all fronts against the pandemic.
Among the most eloquent advocates for openness has been the
distinguished Nigerian public health leader, Professor Olikoye
Ransome-Kuti, who publicized the first AIDS case in 1986 and
acknowledged in 1997 that the death of his world-famous musician
brother (Fela Anikulapo-Kuti) was from AIDS.
Prof. Ransome-Kuti died on June 1, while attending a World Health
Organization meeting in London. This posting contains excerpts from
his remarks at a forum just before he left Nigeria for that
meeting, excerpts from one of many tributes to this public health
pioneer, and an announcement of a new "Media Handbook on HIV/AIDS
in Nigeria" released at the end of May. The handbook is scheduled
to be available soon on the website of Journalists Against AIDS
Nigeria. Among other resources and postings in the organization's
e-forum are additional testimonials to Dr. Ransome-Kuti.
For more information:
Journalists Against AIDS (JAAIDS) Nigeria
1st Floor, 42 Ijaye Road, Ogba, Lagos
Last Public Remarks from Professor Olikoye Ransome-Kuti.
Posting on June 9, 2003 to "Nigeria-AIDS eForum"
<email@example.com> from Cece Modupe Fadope, Local Voices
Project Director, Internews Network Nigeria Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Just over a week ago, we learned of the passing of the much
respected Professor Olikoye Ransome-Kuti.
Two days before the announcement, Friday, May 30th, Professor
Olikoye co-chaired Internews Network's Media Owners and Top
Executives event on HIV and AIDS here in Abuja. As it turned out,
the event was the beloved Professor's last public appearance in
Nigeria. For those of us who were with him in the room just a week
ago, his words will always ring in our ears and hearts; more
important, his example will forever guide our work and the goal of
better health in Nigeria and Africa.
Following is the text of remarks made by the Professor at the
Peace be upon Professor Olikoye Ransome-Kuti.
Professor Olikoye Ransome-Kuti provided a historical run-through of
HIV and AIDS in Nigeria. He said the epidemic became public in
1986 with the diagnosis of a 13-year old girl who died of the
disease. "We are here to talk ourselves about how we can move the
HIV program forward and enlighten our people about the disease.
We have allowed HIV/AIDS almost to slip out our grasp. If we
continue to do so, we shall regret it indeed; the clearer the path
that all of us can take to keep this disease from slipping out of
our grasp, the better. We don't want a Nigeria where 40 percent of
the population has the disease. We must work hard and aim not to
get to that point. I fear that most of our people don't understand
the implications of what allowing this disease can mean for us if
its let loose.
Whatever the press can do to prevent that from happening is very
critical. Our aim in 1986---our aim was to ensure that the disease
never spread beyond the one percent that we had at that time. Some
of us kept saying we should work very hard to keep the disease from
--- to stop it from spreading. Somehow President Babanginda got
the message then. We had organized AIDS prevention committees. We
mobilized the Media. We had set up almost the structure of
prevention with the help of WHO from 1986-1993. After that,
everything went flat. One minister even said if anyone caught AIDS
it was their fault. When a leader says that, it was irresponsible.
It is true that soon after my brother's death-- that the budget for
HIV and AIDS was three hundred thousand (300,000) Naira. We have
allowed HIV and AIDS to get a headstart. We can say the Press has
performed credibly to the limits of their ability though. When I
say to the limit of the ability ---back then when we approached the
media to assist us in tacking this problem, Babangida declared that
all news about HIV and AIDS must be free in the media. The TV and
radio stations said that was his business. It would seem the
government and the press had the political will, but they were
I don't know if the fear and lack of money is still a big
constraint now. But we still have a lot of work to do. We should
not allow this disease to slip too far out our hands. When it gets
to a stage that every one around us has AIDS, there will be nothing
we can do at that time.
One message I want us to give to our people, every one of us must
fight this disease as individuals, so that we know how many of us
are positive. This 5.8 percent figure, I don't believe it
personally. I think it is more like 8 or 10 percent in this
country. Prove me wrong by having your test done. Government
officials should have themselves tested for HIV and AIDS. This
will show as an example, to establish the principle and to
establish accurately how many of us are HIV and AIDS positive.
Each of us should fight against Stigma. This is what every
individual can contribute to fighting this HIV and AIDs problem.
Our print media can assist us in printing the stories of PLWHA who
are willing and able to talk. I think people are in denial about
knowing people who have HIV and AIDs. This meeting is very, very
essential to mobilize our media to assist us in using the power
they have to fight this problem."
Responding to a 'This Day' Reporter's question about whether
condoms are effective in preventing HIV and AIDS, the professor had
the following to say (verbatim text):
"I think we must understand that the only known effective method of
preventing heterosexual infection, passing from one partner to the
other, is the condom. That fact is known. Nothing is a 100
percent. Even all medical treatment is never 100 percent, no
matter how much you try, it is never a 100 percent. When you say
you have a cure for any disease, it is not 100 percent. We'll see
two percent or three percent whom drug that you prescribe will not
save, even when we have a cure for a disease.
To generalize from one or two people who misuse condom or who use
abnormal condoms, or one or two who use the condoms badly, or
reused condoms, and think that condom can prevent disease, rather
than make that statement in your paper, why don't you emphasize for
us how to use the properly. How to get an effective condom and so
on so that the condom can be as much 100 percent effective? I put
down on my paper whether or not I should speak of condoms, maybe I
talk of condoms, may be I shouldn't talk of condoms. Now that
you've raised it, I'll do it. You spend so many of hours bashing
the condom in your press; its a waste of precious space. You're
misleading our people.
There are people who have a moral or religious opposition to
condoms. That's a different issue altogether. If you don't
believe in condoms because you're a religious person, don't make
those statements in the press for a reason for other Nigerians not
to use the condom. I listened to a Bishop on radio, international
Bishop talking about condom who said there's no place for condom in
the prevention of HIV/AIDs; the only way to prevent yourself is to
morally, abstain, there's no other way. If he preaches that to his
congregation in South Africa, his congregation will be reduced to
zero in no time.
Because let me tell you, I believe in abstinence. Definitely,
abstinence will prevent you from getting HIV. Sticking to your
only wife and so on-- that is absolutely true, I have no doubt
about that and those who really believe in that should practice it.
But the majority of mortals with this sex drive God has put in us,
they need the condom to prevent themselves from getting HIV. You
mentioned something about somebody said did God give us this thing
or the other not to be used? Should we sew it up? Of course, sew
it up if you want to sew your own up. Nobody is stopping you
cutting your, your penis off. But this is something put in us by
God. We all try to be true to our religion. We all try to
abstain. We all try to be moral. There's no question about that.
That is what we all try to do, there's no question about that.
But when all these fail, there must still the condom. So please
abstain. Please be moral. Please do any of these things that will
make us pure at heart and everything. But there are many of us who
cannot-- I don't want to say most us, probably its most us, who
cannot do this these things, for God's sake, don't tell them that
the condom is not effective. Tell them that abstinence is
Religion is effective. Being moral is effective. The condom is
also effective. Am I making myself clear? But don't say the condom
is not effective. That is absolutely untrue. The condom itself
might be defective. It may be used badly. It may be damaged during
bad use. Yes, that is the way by which the condom can be
ineffective. But the condom that is perfect, that is good, that is
properly used, and consistently used, is effective. That is the
most effective thing we have today to prevent against HIV. No
other way. That is the most effective thing we have today to
prevent HIV. Every developed country we go, they all use condoms.
Only developing countries talk about morality and religious
issues. Fine. Let us be the ones to talk about it. Somebody said
to me if you go to Ghana, nobody mentions in Jesus name, if you
come to Nigeria everybody mentions in Jesus name. If you go to
Ghana, everything works, in Nigeria nothing works. You know what I
mean. Please let us state the facts. Please do your personal
research. Commission a study by a sociologist or a doctor to look
at the literature, and give you a paper on the effectiveness of the
condom in preventing HIV. Be scientific. Get the evidence before
you publish or you state the fact that you have stated. To say
that the condom is not effective against HIV is absolutely
blasphemy. I can't think of a stronger word to use than that."
Excerpts from Remarks on Prof. Ransome-Kuti
by Stella Iwuagwu, Executive Director Center for the Right to Health
(CRH), Tel: 01-7743816, Fax: 01-4979467, Email: email@example.com
Apostle of primary healthcare and preventive medicine. Pillar of
health ministry. Mr. Punctuality. The best health minister Nigeria
ever had. An advocate of child and maternal health as well as
These were some of the befitting remarks made by notable Nigerians
on Prof. Olikoye Ransome-Kuti since his demise, early this month in
London while on a World Health Organisation's (WHO) assignment. His
exit would indeed leave a vacuum that will take time to fill in the
nation's healthcare delivery system.
Koye as he was fondly called, came into national limelight in 1985,
when he was appointed the Federal Minister of Health and Human
Services by Gen. Ibrahim Babangida's regime. From 1985-1992, when
he called shots at the nation's apex health body, the amiable
paediatrician laid the foundation for the nation's health policy
and made primary healthcare and preventive medicine the cornerstone
of his administration.
The medic, who was known to be punctual at every function even
before the organisers, had a very tall dream for the nation's
healthcare delivery system. He dreamt that every of the nation's
774 local governments should have one primary healthcare facility.
Until his death, recently, the government is yet to meet this
Just before death came calling, the late sage had advised all
Nigerians to go for HIV test so that the magnitude of the pandemic
can be ascertained because "you cannot begin to proffer solutions
for a problem you do not know the magnitude". He made case for the
stemming of all forms of stigmatisation and discrimination because
the epidemic could further be escalated by these twin factors.
Ransome-Kuti was a strong believer in primary healthcare being the
fulcrum of the nation's healthcare delivery system. He had
severally reasoned that this would be so because almost 70 percent
of the nation's health burden occur at the primary healthcare
level. Take for instance the health burden of malaria and other
childhood preventable diseases that occur mainly at the primary
level yet this is the level that is grossly neglected by
The HIV/AIDS advocate was in the forefront of the campaign against
the pandemic in Nigeria. He stunned Nigerians when he publicly
admitted Nigeria's first AIDS case in 1986. This was a period
people were denying the existence of the virus that causes AIDS but
the health minister admitted that HIV/AIDS exists in Nigeria.
He did not stop there. When his younger brother, the late Afrobeat
King, Fela, died in 1997, Olikoye did not mince words in telling
Nigerians that his brother died of AIDS-related ailment. Although
this revelation did not go down well with many of Fela's admirers,
it gave AIDS a human face in Nigeria. It made Nigerians aware that
AIDS is real and can kill anybody irrespective of class. And since
Fela's death, the AIDS campaign has been stepped further that even
his son, musician, Femi, is now a front ranker in the campaign.
Olikoye equally waged a relentless war against cigarette smoking
especially in public places. He even moved for a law to ban public
smoking in Nigeria and ensured that cigarette companies insert the
health warning in their products and advertisements in Nigeria.
Most Nigerian women would remember the late health minister for his
penchant for breastfeeding. He was indeed the foremost advocate of
exclusive breastfeeding. He usually told any audience on
breastfeeding that the mother's breast milk is the best for the
child. Apart from being natural, it is cost effective, given on
demand and helps prevent some childhood ailments.
In everything the late Professor did, he remained exemplary. He was
modest and simple in life both in office and out of office. He
hardly turned down invitations to attend health-related forum or to
be interviewed even at short notice.
The late Ransome-Kuti until his death was chairman of the National
Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA). He was born into
the famous Ransome-Kuti family of Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State in December
30, 1927. ...
Since his demise on Sunday, June 1, 2003 at seventy-six (76), many
Nigerians had been paying tributes to this eminent paediatrician.
Some had expressed shock, disbelief and others grief. But all were
in agreement that the deceased was a good man and a remarkable
Prominent Lagos physician, Dr. Ore Falomo said; "We have lost a
gem. Children and the poor whom he catered for will miss him most.
He was devoted to the service of mankind. He was the best doctor
that Nigeria ever produced. I do not see any of us that can step
into his big shoes. He never did private practice and he never took
money from anybody for medication". ,,,
The Late Ransome-Kuti had strings of academic degrees and awards
having worked in the health sector all his life both within and
outside Nigeria especially among international bodies like WHO,
UNICEF and John Hopkins University, USA. ,,,
The late Ransome-Kuti was on the board of so many non-governmental
organisations in Nigeria including the Center for the Right to
Health (CRH), a Lagos-based NGO which advocates for the full
realisation of the right to health in Nigeria and promote respect
for ethics and human rights in healthcare policies and practices
for vulnerable groups such as people living with HIV/AIDS.
Media handbook on HIV/AIDS in Nigeria launched
June 2, 2003
Media coverage of HIV/AIDS related issues in Nigeria recorded a
boost Tuesday May 27 2003, with the launch of the first-ever Media
Handbook on HIV/AIDS in Nigeria.
The publication is a product of a collaboration between three
organizations: Journalists Against AIDS (JAAIDS) Nigeria,
Development Communications Network, (DevComs) the United Nations
Information Center, (UNIC), Nigeria. The launching held at the
Sheraton Hotel, Lagos.
Media coverage of HIV/AIDS issues in Nigeria has witnessed a
significant increase in recent times. According to a print media
monitoring report conducted by Journalists Against AIDS (JAAIDS)
Nigeria, about 1,846 articles comprising news, feature stories,
opinions and editorial comments were published between March 2002
and March 2003. 375 news photographs and 71 cartoon strips on
HIV/AIDS were published during the period of the research.
Notwithstanding this encouraging level of response, obvious gaps
still exist. Omololu Falobi, Program Director, JAAIDS identified
some of these gaps as "insufficient understanding of the science
of HIV, poor knowledge of ethical implications of HIV/AIDS
coverage, use of stigmatizing and disempowering language as well
as insufficient knowledge of authoritative sources of information
on AIDS." Access to reliable and credible HIV/AIDS resources was
one way of addressing these gaps - and the newly launched handbook
seeks to provide exactly that.
The handbook aims to promote qualitative and objective reporting of
HIV/AIDS in the Nigerian media by providing a reliable, credible
and authoritative source of information on HIV/AIDS. The 90-page
publication is divided into eight sections. These include
HIV/AIDS: The Facts, The Myths; Ethical issues in reporting
HIV/AIDS; Practical Guide to Reporting HIV/AIDS, HIV/AIDS and
Special Populations; General Resources; Frequently Asked
Questions; Facts and Figures; and Glossary of HIV/AIDS Related
Product of a painstaking process spanning over 18 months, the media
handbook had inputs from practising journalists, media trainers,
communications experts, epidemiologists, human rights advocates and
people living with HIV/AIDS. ,,,
An online version of the handbook will be available on the website
of Journalists Against AIDS (JAAIDS) Nigeria:
http://www.nigeria-aids.org. For copies of the print version,
please contact any of the following addresses.
Journalists Against AIDS (JAAIDS) Nigeria Media Resource Centre on
HIV/AIDS and Reproductive Health 1st Floor, 42 Ijaye Road, Ogba,
Lagos Tel: 234-1-77331457 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Development Communications (Devcoms) Network Media Resource and
Advocacy Centre 26 Adebola Street, Off Adeniran Ogunsanya Street,
Surulere, Lagos. Tel: 234-1-7748397 Email: email@example.com
United Nations Information Centre (UNIC), Nigeria 17,Alfred Rewane
(formerly Kingsway) Road Ikoyi, Lagos. Tel: 234-1-2694886 Fax:
234-1-2691934 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Date distributed (ymd): 030622
Region: West Africa
Issue Areas: +health+
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