Alperton nurse helps poverty stricken Africa communities living with HIV
PUBLISHED: 13:56 19 January 2016 | UPDATED: 13:56 19 January 2016
A nurse from Alperton has returned from Swaziland where she helped poverty stricken communities living with HIV.
Abena Akom, a registered nurse specialising in sexual health in Brent, took her skills to the African country on an HIV prevention missionary trip with charity Challenge Ministries.
The 31-year-old was based in Bluembu, a city built by Challenge, which houses more than 2000 children orphaned by the Aids pandemic and hundreds more who are abandoned.
She said: “My trip was amazing. Swaziland is a very beautiful, picturesque country with breath taking landscape and nature.”
Ms Akom, who travelled with a mobile unit to outlying villages, said her three week trip was “eye-opening” adding: “Most of the clinics were set up outdoors in the middle of villages. One of the clinics was even under a tree. People travelled up to three hours by foot to visit the clinics and receive free healthcare.
“We saw a lot of people who were HIV positive and there was a lot of health education around antiretroviral medication (ARVs). We had quite a few people with a condition known as geophagia which involves the consumption of and addiction to eating soil.
“Some people who could not afford food said that they resorted to eating cow dung for purposes of taking ARVs because they must be consumed after a meal and a lot of people who were unaware of the benefits of taking ARVs said they used them to feed their chickens instead of taking them.”
She tested children under 10 at a children’s home and held public health talks with the wider community to learn more about the lack of awareness and stigma attached to the disease.
“It was unfortunate to see how poverty can have an impact on HIV transmission as some women who were breastfeeding did not know that HIV can be in breast milk but were unable to afford bottled milk.”
A highlight of her trip, paid for through fundraising events, was working with the Luke Commission, a Christian organisation which provides more than 25 services at every mobile hospital outreach including HIV care, chronic medical conditions and eye cataract surgery.
She added: “My trip was life changing not only to myself but also to others. I definitely want to visit again as it was so rewarding and I would encourage others who want to change lives to do the same.”