As a Premed Biology student minoring in Economics, Dami had always been passionate about Nigeria, and had always sought ways to think about and address the problems facing its healthcare system in the context of its economic situation. ARISE™ was birthed after her Alma Mater (Gordon College '14) announced its first ever Social Venture Challenge (SVC) competition. A competition which aimed to encourage youths to pursue entrepreneurship, with a holistic focus on Christian values and the human good by pitching ideas/solutions to problem(s) in the world today.
Her vision for ARISE™ was birthed due to a personal story that had happened a year earlier - one that involved her sister. This story centered on her sister's 5-month miscarriage, which was partly due the asymptomatic STD, trichomoniasis. Fortunately she was able to get treated and conceive again because the disease was caught early, and also partly because she had access to sophisticated testing equipment and treatment outside of Nigeria. Ruminating over the prior tragedy in relation to her pitch idea, Dami, with the help of her partner Eni, began realizing that not only did Nigeria lack ample medical facilities to combat the crisis, a lot of these STDs were asymptomatic. Additionally, the huge focus on HIV/AIDS, masked the awareness of other STDs. After conducting a survey and posting a question on popular Nigerian forum Nairaland, the duo were able to narrow down the root cause of the problem to one thing - the stigma! It was apparent that STD testing rate (and treatment ultimately) was low mostly because of the stigma (amongst other factors) surrounding the disease, which also hindered early or no testing for the disease. This then became the focus of their pitch for the competition!
From our survey findings and focus of our Social Venture Challenge (SVC) pitch, the stigma (amongst other factors) was cited as the major reason for why STD testing was never or rarely done in Nigeria. Due to Nigeria's honor-shame culture, individuals do not seek testing early for fear of being shamed (sometimes publicly) or perceived to be promiscuous. This is problematic because it eliminates instances of rape, abuse or even a loving relationship between two people. We intend to dispel this stereotype by engaging and empowering Nigerian youths and women in the movement towards securing their health. Especially since all STDs can be treated, while some can be cured if caught early. Allowing these STDs to fester in a persons system for long can result in disastrous consequences that include but are not limited to infertility (in both men and women), ectopic pregnancies, damaged reproductive systems & sometimes death.
Our strategy focuses on 3 aspects:
In order to tackle the stigma, awareness needs to be created. We believe that eduction is the first step forward to empower Nigeria's youths, its women and men.
A stigma cannot be eradicated easily because it involves changing a society's norm, culture and worldviews that have been in existent for many generations. We believe the media is an essential force in making progress in this fight.
3. Testing & Treatment:
Without the means to carry out the plans and awareness raised concerning our cause, our efforts would be futile. We believe that providing subsdized funding to assist the average Nigerian with affording the cost of getting tested and treated for an STD would be commensurate in achieving our vision.