During my current work in a hospital in Akwatia Ghana, I had the chance to work together with the social welfare unit of the facility. One day I was called by the social worker in order to accompany them to ‘deliver’ an elderly lady back to her village. Here is what happened.
Abendoned in a hospital bed for two weeks
The woman was transferred to the hospital in a bad condition due to her HIV positive status. After her treatment she was discharged but no one came to pick her up. Thus, for over two weeks she was laying in the hospital with no care, visitors or proper food. Merely the social welfare unit gave her basic food to survive. When I asked the staff where the relatives are, no one knew about them and it was assumed that they are not coming as they cannot afford to pay the medical bills. Thus, we put the women in a car and together with two social workers we drove off to find the village.
When we arrived it became apparent to me why no one was visiting this lady: For over one hour we drove through literally nothing but nature and the road was close to non existent. A trip that is almost impossible to make for the people living in that village.
Huge stigma around HIV
Once we arrived in the village, only the mother of the women was to be found. She herself was old and barely able to walk. When I asked about other family members I was told that all children are living in the bigger cities and only one daughter takes care of the sick women and her mother. But this daughter was not there. I therefore decided to talk to one of the neighbours who seemed to have an important position in the village. He directly asked me if the woman was HIV positive and I explained to him that I am not allowed to disclose any information about her health satus. Later I learned that a huge stigma around HIV exists in Ghana, which will prevent the people from the village to support the sick women. Normally family and community bonds in Ghana are strong but people are afraid to get infected, too and also believe that a patient is cursed with a ‘bad spirit’. The consequence is that sick people are often avoided.
In the end I left the village with the sad knowledge that most likely no one will take care of this women and her mother. Meaning she will probably not take her antiretroviral therapy to be able to live with her HIV infection.
More and more young people in Ghana are leaving their villages in order to work in the bigger cities where more jobs are available. A normal trend that can also be seen for instance in Germany. The difference in Ghana
is that there is no system in place that takes care about the people left behind.