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Note: This document is from the archive of the Africa Policy E-Journal, published by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC) from 1995 to 2001 and by Africa Action from 2001 to 2003. APIC was merged into Africa Action in 2001. Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.

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
Tel: 234-1-77331457

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Last Public Remarks from Professor Olikoye Ransome-Kuti.

Posting on June 9, 2003 to "Nigeria-AIDS eForum"
<> from Cece Modupe Fadope, Local Voices Project Director, Internews Network Nigeria Email:

Dear All:

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 Internews event:

Peace be upon Professor Olikoye Ransome-Kuti.

Opening Remarks:

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 handicapped.

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 effective.

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:

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 breastfeeding.

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 aspiration.

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 government.

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 health professional.

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 Terms.

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: 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:

Development Communications (Devcoms) Network Media Resource and Advocacy Centre 26 Adebola Street, Off Adeniran Ogunsanya Street, Surulere, Lagos. Tel: 234-1-7748397 Email:

United Nations Information Centre (UNIC), Nigeria 17,Alfred Rewane (formerly Kingsway) Road Ikoyi, Lagos. Tel: 234-1-2694886 Fax: 234-1-2691934 Email:

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Date distributed (ymd): 030622
Region: West Africa
Issue Areas: +health+

The Africa Action E-Journal is a free information service provided by Africa Action, including both original commentary and reposted documents. Africa Action provides this information and analysis in order to promote U.S. and international policies toward Africa that advance economic, political and social justice and the full spectrum of human rights.

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