So what do we do about HIV at GECHAAN?

So what do we do about HIV at GECHAAN?

The ministry that we are at – Gembu Center for HIV/AIDS Nigeria (GECHAAN) is where Dan and I serve.  Now that you know a little bit about HIV/AIDS I thought I would tell you how we are working to create awareness and treating those many people that are affected.  One of the things we do here!

Currently we provide free testing, treating, and counselling for people when they come to us wanting a HIV test.  We are one of the very few places for hundreds of miles that can do the CD4 test right here on sight.  The person will be counselled, if HIV negative they are told how to stay that way.  If HIV positive they are scheduled for the next three days for adherence class.  This teaches them how they need to take their medications as prescribed, and not waver, also how to prevent transmitting HIV to another person.  If pregnant, also how to help prevent the unborn baby from acquiring it.  There is also nutritional training.  This is very important because HIV affects your immune system.  The things you can do to help it include taking your medication, exercise, and diet.  In Nigeria there are many tribal myths about what you can do to “cure” AIDS.  Of course, there is not a cure yet and these do much more damage then good.  We work very hard at making sure anyone we come in contact with knows this and our counselors are very good at what they do .

In the past, through grants and programs GECHAAN has gone into remote villages and communities teaching, testing, and counselling many.  This has contributed to a community that knows much more about HIV/AIDS and overall new cases are decreasing.  GECHAAN has been synonymous with quality care in our area.  We are working hard at making sure it stays that way and expanding our services.

What is the connection between medication adherence and drug resistance?

Taking HIV medicines every day prevents HIV from multiplying, which reduces the risk that HIV will mutate and produce drug-resistant HIV. Skipping HIV medicines allows HIV to multiply, which increases the risk of drug-resistant HIV developing.

Research shows that a person’s first HIV regimen offers the best chance for long-term treatment success. So adherence is important from the start—when a person first begins taking HIV medicines.  Thus the counselling focus right at the start.

Typically, if a person gets to the point that no HIV medicines will work for him and his CD4 count is low, he will get Malaria, Typhoid, Pnuemonia, or something else and die from that.  HIV/AIDS does not kill you.  It weakens your immune system so another infection (co-morbidity) is what people will die from.

I hope this month’s blogs on HIV/AIDS have given you information that you possibly didn’t know and you can be a little more informed of what people living with this disease go through.

PMTCT – What is it?

PMTCT – What is it?

PMTCT Preventing Mother To Child Transmission.  This is a picture of a grandmother, her granddaughter, and granddaughters’ baby.  This is the picture you should have in your mind when you think of the number one way that new cases of HIV/AIDS happen.  Here is the story.  The granddaughter had a baby boy (they named him Thankgod – I love that!) Then when the baby was about a week old the granddaughter came to the LifeLine Center because she wasn’t feeling well.  The baby was also not feeling well.  The grandmother showed me the baby and said with a beaming smile, “It’s a boy!”.  We did a HIV test on the granddaughter and she is positive.  It is too early to tell yet if the baby is positive and we have started the baby on Nevaripine, which reduces the baby’s risk about 50%.  When the baby is six weeks old we can test and then monitor if he’s HIV positive.

Here in Nigeria many women have their baby at home, there are many reasons for this i.e. cost, knowledge, and accessiblity just to name a few.  Because there is limited prenatal and medical care in developing countries, many women can be HIV positive and not know it all through their pregnancy.  Delivering the baby and breastfeeding without any treatment on mother and child’s behalf results in a HIV positive child.  3.2 Million children worldwide are living with HIV because of this.  People, knowledge is power!  If every mother has access to pre-natal care and HIV testing and treatment, this would be prevented.  These children are innocent!

How do HIV medicines prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV?

HIV medicines reduce the amount of HIV in the body. Having less HIV in the body reduces a woman’s risk of passing HIV to her baby during pregnancy and childbirth. Having less HIV in the body also also protects the woman’s health.

Some of the HIV medicine passes from the pregnant woman to her unborn baby across the placenta (also called the afterbirth). This transfer of HIV medicine protects the baby from HIV infection, especially during a vaginal delivery when the baby may be exposed to HIV in the mother’s blood or other fluids.

Babies born to women with HIV receive HIV medicine for 6 weeks after birth. The HIV medicine reduces the risk of infection from HIV that may have entered a baby’s body during childbirth.

Many children born HIV positive and not treated with antiretroviral therapy (ART), die before their fourth birthday.

We are working very hard to continue the work here at GECHAAN.  Art and Dorothy Helwig, as well as the staff here have done so much to further the knowledge and resources of this area.  Clients know that when they come to then Life Line Center, they will be treated with respect and get the care they need.

Where did HIV come from?

Where did HIV come from?

The year was 1987 – I remember the day well!  I was watching the Twins in the World Series and saw an informational piece on HIV.  I was frightened as I could not believe there was a new disease that we didn’t know much about and there was no cure for it.  How would this affect our children?

With knowledge there is power.  That is part of what we do every day here in Nigeria.  We give people the dignity to live life knowing how to prevent HIV or help them live healthy, vital lives and resources to take the fear out of the unknown.  This is how this horrible disease started:

Scientists identified a type of chimpanzee in West Africa as the source of HIV infection in humans. They believe that the chimpanzee version of the immunodeficiency virus (called simian immunodeficiency virus or SIV) most likely was transmitted to humans and mutated into HIV when humans hunted these chimpanzees for meat and came into contact with their infected blood. Over decades, the virus slowly spread across Africa and later into other parts of the world.

The earliest known case of infection with HIV-1 in a human was detected in a blood sample collected in 1959 from a man in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo. (How he became infected is not known.) Genetic analysis of this blood sample suggested that HIV-1 may have stemmed from a single virus in the late 1940s or early 1950s.

In 1982 public health officials began to use the term “acquired immunodeficiency syndrome,” or AIDS, to describe the occurrences of opportunistic infections, Kaposi’s sarcoma (a kind of cancer), and Pneumocystis jirovecii pneumonia in previously healthy people. Formal tracking (surveillance) of AIDS cases began that year in the United States.

In 1983, scientists discovered the virus that causes AIDS. The virus was at first named HTLV-III/LAV (human T-cell lymphotropic virus-type III/lymphadenopathy-associated virus) by an international scientific committee. This name was later changed to HIV (human immunodeficiency virus).

For many years scientists theorized as to the origins of HIV and how it appeared in the human population, most believing that HIV originated in other primates. Then in 1999, an international team of researchers reported that they had discovered the origins of HIV-1, the predominant strain of HIV in the developed world. A subspecies of chimpanzees native to west equatorial Africa had been identified as the original source of the virus. The researchers believe that HIV-1 was introduced into the human population when hunters became exposed to infected blood.

Why HIV?

Why HIV?

This month I am going to do a series of blogs on HIV/AIDS.  Before this journey I knew nothing about this virus.  I didn’t need to because it didn’t affect me.  Now I know and there will be no excuses!


“HIV” stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. To understand what that means, let’s break it down:

  • HHuman – This particular virus can only infect human beings.
  • IImmunodeficiency – HIV weakens your immune system by destroying important cells that fight disease and infection. A “deficient” immune system can’t protect you.
  • VVirus – A virus can only reproduce itself by taking over a cell in the body of its host.

HIV is a lot like other viruses, including those that cause the “flu” or the common cold. But there is an important difference – over time, your immune system can clear most viruses out of your body. That isn’t the case with HIV – the human immune system can’t seem to get rid of it. That means that once you have HIV, you have it for life.

We know that HIV can hide for long periods of time in the cells of your body and that it attacks a key part of your immune system – your T-cells or CD4 cells. Your body has to have these cells to fight infections and disease, but HIV invades them, uses them to make more copies of itself, and then destroys them.

Over time, HIV can destroy so many of your CD4 cells that your body can’t fight infections and diseases anymore. When that happens, HIV infection can lead to AIDS, the final stage of HIV infection.

However, not everyone who has HIV progresses to AIDS. With proper treatment, called “antiretroviral therapy” (ART), you can keep the level of HIV virus in your body low. ART is the use of HIV medicines to fight HIV infection. It involves taking a combination of HIV medicines every day. These HIV medicines can control the virus so that you can live a longer, healthier life and reduce the risk of transmitting HIV to others. Before the introduction of ART in the mid-1990s, people with HIV could progress to AIDS in just a few years. Today, a person who is diagnosed with HIV and treated before the disease is far advanced can have a nearly normal life expectancy.

No safe and effective cure for HIV currently exists, but scientists are working hard to find one, and remain hopeful.


“AIDS” stands for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. To understand what that means, let’s break it down:

  • A – Acquired – AIDS is not something you inherit from your parents. You acquire AIDS after birth.
  • I – Immuno – Your body’s immune system includes all the organs and cells that work to fight off infection or disease.
  • D – Deficiency – You get AIDS when your immune system is “deficient,” or isn’t working the way it should.
  • S – Syndrome – A syndrome is a collection of symptoms and signs of disease. AIDS is a syndrome, rather than a single disease, because it is a complex illness with a wide range of complications and symptoms.

As noted above, AIDS is the final stage of HIV infection, and not everyone who has HIV advances to this stage. People at this stage of HIV disease have badly damaged immune systems, which put them at risk for opportunistic infections.

Land of the Free

Land of the Free

This week I have been so thankful that I was born American.   Being raised in a low to middle-class American family, I have had so many opportunities that 95% of the rest of this world have not.

As a child, my mom would tell me about starving children in other countries and I really wished I could send my oatmeal with raisins directly to them.  I have never experienced true hunger , let alone starvation.

I have had the opportunity to learn, work, have a roof over my head.  I have been able to home-school and then choose schools for our children that we felt were best for them.  I have had reading materials readily available to me my entire life.  I had a mother that read to me, and we read to our children.

I have always been patriotic, my favorite clothing choices have always, been red, white, and blue.  I love the Statue of Liberty, our flag, the Liberty Bell,  our soldiers, our country that was founded “Under God”.  On 911 I felt personally violated, as I am sure many other Americans did.

With all of my patriotic thoughts this week I have also been reading in Isaiah 61:1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners.  In Colossians 1:13-14  I read, For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

Did God give us all of this freedom, resources, privileges so that we could want more material things for ourselves?  Did He give us the education and resources to just reach the people we WANT to talk to?  No, He clearly didn’t.  He didn’t make all of us to go.  He made some of us to send, some to give, some to pray.  He made us to work together.  Living in this tribal Nigerian society has helped me realize how very independent we Americans are.  I am thankful that God has given us partners that have heard God’s call to send us, support us financially, and pray for us.  He put people into our lives that don’t know Him.  They need the freedom that only comes from Jesus.

My point for today is this:  How are you reaching the people God has placed in your life?  That. Is. All.