Thursday, February 14, 2008


Danny was a cook on EU trawlers fishing off the west/central African coast.

He returned to land sometime in 1992 and I met him at our local palm-wine shebeen. We hit it off instantantly.

Laconic, tall and thin, a thin moustache, handsome and constantly with a cigarette in his mouth, through which he talked and talked never taking the cigarette out - hours of working with both hands and a bit of sterile ash in the stew won´t do much harm.

From 1991-92 I taught one class of 10th graders (i.e. 15-16 year olders) in the country´s high school. I introduced ¨project work¨ to their English curriculum. And producing propaganda against HIV and AIDS was part of that. The daughter of the Cape Verdian consul, Eneida, produced a wonderful graphic, which little to her knowing (as she had returned to Cape Verde) was reproduced 5 metres high on the outside wall of the school´s gymnasium years later.

The country ignored and remained ignorant of HIV.

Danny and I struck up a friendshp and were soon walking the forest together. I managed to get him a job in an EU-financed biodiversity project but when the funding ended, his job ended. The opportunity arose to go back to sea. A Spanish trawler fleet called in, recruiting, and he was taken on.

He fell ill. His employers (decently I would say) evacuated him to Portugal where he was diagnosed with AIDS. I don´t know what treatment he received.

In 2001he was accompanied back here as a reverse medical evacuation accompanied by a Brazilian doctor. He died on or just before arrival. His wife and children, who I little knew, apparently wanted little to do with the Brazilian doctor.

Certainly, he picked up HIV as a sailor ¨whoring¨ in every port.

He was the first known case of HIV/AIDS in this country. I have since seen others die of what I suspect has been undiagnosed AIDS.

Now in-country HIV testing is standard for pregnant women and encouraged for others. Condom use is promoted.

But it has taken since 16 years for the medical services of the country to wake up.

P.S. I didn't realise the pertenance of this post on today's date until I saw Dr Crippen's offering today!

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