Fr. Ubong Attai SJ., at the AJAN Resource Centre
For the benefit of our network and audience, please allow me to ask you, who is Fr. Ubong?
I am Jesuit from Nigeria, presently on Tertianship in Nairobi. This is my 25th year as a Jesuit, and it has been a wonderful 25 years. Of course there have some challenges at various stages of my formation but I believe grace abounded even more in those experiences. Prior to beginning Tertianship I had been working at St Francis Catholic Church, a Jesuit- parish, in Lagos for 7 years.
Just what created the interest in you to visit AJAN?
24 years ago, as a Jesuit novice, I had the opportunity to work with HIV/AIDS, Leprosy and TB patients during my hospital apostolic experiment. That experience had a great impact on me. I learned a lot about HIV/AIDS then, but of course after 24 years, the information we had then about HIVAIDS has changed considerably.
What are your expectations from AJAN on this visit?
My expectations? I am here first to learn. AJAN will provide me with information, and various literature, data, and statistics on HIV/AIDS, but those documents will only make sense to me within the context of real lived experience of the children at Lea Toto— a service center for children living with HIV/AIDS as a result of mother-to-child transmission. I hope to be challenged through these experiences.
Above: Fr. Ubong with his host, AJAN Director Fr. Elphege.
Your coming to AJAN could be an indicator of your possible interest in the area of HIV/AIDS, could you explain this a bit?
Possible interest? Well, I am hoping to learn more about HIV and AIDs, but more importantly, to know the people, and learn about myself in his experience.
Do you have experience in dealing with HIV and AIDS issues? Please share on this.
In my response to your second question, I mentioned I had worked with some people who were living with the virus over two decades ago, but things have changed a lot now. At that time, there were no antiretroviral drugs, the stigma was greater, and there was very limited information about the virus and the people living with the virus. Now it is a lot easier for the people infected to continue living normal lives and to even get married and to have children that are not infected with the virus.
Moreover, the parish I worked in before coming here has a hospital which, thanks to donations from USAID/Catholic Caritas, is now well equipped as a HIV and AIDS free counseling, testing, and treatment center. So, Yes! I do have a bit of familiarity in dealing with HIV and AIDS matters.
What, generally is the situation of HIV and AIDS in Nigeria from your understanding as a priest?
What I have come to learn is that many people living with HIV in Nigeria are unaware of their status. The government is not proactive in this regard. We are yet to have the recommended number of HIV testing and counselling sites within each locality. Catholic Caritas foundation, working with USAID, and UNAIDS have done a tremendous amount of work to put this in place, but this is a country of 180 million people. Accessing antiretroviral treatment continues to be a challenge for many people living with HIV, and stigmatization remains a major contributing factor to this.
Below: Fr. Ubong engages in a conversation with; Anne Kwamboka(Center), Accounts Officer and Glorious an intern from Rwanda’s Urumuri Center.