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HIV/AIDS, Cholera: Why The Cacophony About The Former? 

By Peterkins Manyong

To discover and to invent are, certainly, two very significant achievements. The two are products of intense research. To deserve the title "Professor", one needs to have basically carried out intense research and published in renowned journals. To better deserve such an appellation, a discovery should be made.

Viewed in this light, Professor Victor Anomah Ngu, who made significant discoveries in the domain of cancer and HIV/AIDS, deserves nearly as much panegyric as Professor Luc Montagner, the person who discovered the HIV/AIDS virus itself. Of recent, another disease is ravaging Cameroonians with far more devastating effects than the HIV/AIDS virus.

But for some unexplained reason(s), there is less concern about cholera. The reasons are obvious: there is yet no evidence that funding is available for the fight against cholera. Even when some cacophony was made about cholera a few months back, it was because the epidemic broke out in areas where the tribes and families of top Government officials hail from.

These areas include the Northern regions, Yaounde, and to a lesser extent, Buea and Limbe.
But when it was the turn of Bafut, the New Deal Regime looked away, allowing only Mayor Langsi, his councillors and Bafut medical authorities to grieve about the disease. Cholera kills within 48 hours because of the rapidity with which the patient is dehydrated.

It suffices that one person has it and the whole community where that individual lives, is in grave danger. But it is possible for an HIV/AIDS patient to live for decades and die without contaminating anybody because the mode of transmission is limited to direct contact with blood, the semen or other bodily fluids from the sufferer.

Cholera spreads through contaminated food and water. But what is even more grievous is that a simple handshake with someone who has the disease can lead to contamination. If a passenger in a bus has it, he or she can contaminate everybody in that bus by simply touching the car door.

It is, therefore, not surprising that within days of its arrival in Bafut, four persons visited the shades below. The disease spread from a Bafut indigene who returned ill from Mutengene and died in Bafut. Sentimentalism, as it is the case in such circumstances, pushed relations and well wishers to engage in romance with the cadaver.

The consequence was the pandemic which, till date, is still ravaging the Subdivision and has even spread to other parts of the Northwest. The only meaningful reaction from Northwest Public Health authorities was a sensitisation visit to some boarding schools within the vicinity of Bamenda, followed by workshops with authorities of those schools.

But unlike what transpires when workshops on HIV/AIDS are organised, there was no per diem for participants. Job Nyanganji, then Principal of Baptist High School Bamenda, proposed that a project be written requesting funding for the fight against cholera, but Dr. Victor Ndiforchu, Northwest Delegate for Public Health, dismissed the idea, saying that cholera can be prevented through simple hygiene, unlike HIV/AIDS.

If a Government official can so quickly water down such a meaningful suggestion, it means his hierarchy is not likely to be warm about it. It is, therefore, no surprise that the only assistance the Northwest Public Health Delegation has given the medical officers of Bafut is an ambulance which is more useful in conveying corpses to their burial places than in carrying patients to hospital.

While enumerating areas hit by cholera, Public Health Minister, Andre Mama Fouda, accidentally or deliberately failed to mention the name of Bafut. It was only after Mayor Langsi and fellow councillors cried out in despair that he mentioned it in passing while addressing Parliament.

After that, the Health Minister didn’t just fail to send assistance to the Bafut victims, he did something worse – he raised the expectations of Bafut health officials by making a solemn promise which, in typical New Deal style, has not been fulfilled, according to Mayor Langsi who quoted the doctor handling the epidemic. The Mayor expressed his disappointment rather comically.

"Perhaps it is still in the car transporting it two weeks after it was sent or it fell into the River Sanaga like the Coup de Coeur money which Minister Kontchou said dropped from the plane transporting it into the Pacific Ocean.

While the problem of potable drinking water continues in Lower Bafut where only two villages, Nchoho and Tingoh, have pipe borne water, the rate of spread has reduced. This is thanks to the efforts of the Bafut council which has provided Bafut health authorities with disinfectants to spray areas suspected of having the cholera germs. Mayor Langsi praised the Northwest Special Fund for Health and Plan Cameroon for their support.

But even with all the above efforts, there are still two cholera victims taking treatment in Lower Bafut. This negligence of cholera victims contrasts sharply with the concern shown towards HIV/AIDS which, to combat, the Northwest Provincial Technical Group, PTG, for the fight against HIV/AIDS, was literally pampered with huge funds that disappeared into private pockets.
It is not the purpose of this analyst to undermine the dangers posed by HIV/AIDS.

A recent seminar organised by the Cameroon Baptist Convention, CBC, Health Department of HIV/AIDS Care and Prevention, revealed that Bamenda pregnant women and sex workers top the HIV infection chart. Practices like having multiple sex partners and stigmatisation were considered the common practices that promote the spread of the disease.

Dr. Gladys Tayong, Northwest Regional Technical Coordinator for the fight against HIV/AIDS and Professor Pius Tih, Director of the CBC Health Services, were quite instrumental to the success of the seminar. Whatever might be said about HIV/AIDS, there is this nagging suspicion that those who are very vocal about the disease are people who derive pecuniary benefit from the campaigns.

This news analysis is being written against a backdrop of preparations to bury Professor Victor Anomah Ngu, the Cameroonian scientist who produced VANHIVAX, a drug capable of revolutionising the HIV/AIDS fight, but who died out of frustration because the Biya Regime refused to provide him substantial financial support.

So, if there is so much ado about HIV/AIDS when cholera and malaria kill faster, then, there is more to the cacophony about HIV/AIDS than concern for human life.

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