Health and public issues have always been topics that are close to my heart. My mom is a doctor, and growing up, she and I often discussed healthcare around the world. I also took a class in the fall called “Sex and Love in African History” in which we discussed, among many other topics, issues with healthcare and the public’s perception of AIDS in Africa. For these reasons, when the Ebola crisis hit, I wanted to know more about why it was such an issue in Africa. We actually watched a video about it in the aforementioned class, it’s linked below.
So when the African Studies Institute at OU put together a panel to comment to the crisis, I really wanted to attend.
Experts from various departments came together to explain different aspects of the crisis. What stuck out to me the most, were the striking similarities between this outbreak and the AIDS issue. Both encountered problems with the public’s perception: some local people thought that the Westerners who came to give aid were actually infecting people with the diseases. They also had issues with the lack of healthcare facilities and a main focus of many relief efforts was to construct temporary centers.
Another major roadblock is that Ebola is spread through bodily fluids, leaving caregivers who clean and care for the sick can easily contract it.
Additionally, in many African cultures, it is customary for many of the members of the community to touch a dead body before they bury it. Unfortunately, this leads to further spread of the disease as friends and family say goodbye to those who succumbed to the disease.
Events like this roundtable are pretty eye-opening. We don’t often think about health issues that mainly affect people halfway around the globe. But in this case, it came across the ocean. And the general population terrified, even though our healthcare system and customs are completely capable of containing such diseases. We are much more concerned about a minimal threat on our soil than hundreds of people who are really in danger. It’s certainly food for thought.