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Nigerian Doctor Sees Similarities Between AIDS Problem in Delta, Africa

September 4, 2001

Heat, suffocating humidity, poverty and AIDS are some of the reasons Dr. Hamza O. Brimah calls the Mississippi Delta "little Africa." In his Greenwood, Miss., clinic, the Nigerian-born doctor wages a battle against a worldwide scourge with compassion and medicine. "I think it's because of the situation in Mississippi as well as probably the rural Southeast. Unfortunately, there's a lot of denial. There's stigmatization. There's ignorance," Brimah said. "These are similar to the situation in Africa, too."

Brimah, expanding his remarks, said, "It's sort of ironic because we refer to the Southeast as the Bible Belt, but then some of the people most needy of our care . . . we turn around and deny them." The Delta houses little in the way of medical care. Brimah operates his clinic with federal funds for primary care in the state's poorest region, one with Mississippi's highest rates of HIV infection. In a nine-county region of the Delta, there were 37 new HIV infections reported in 2000. That same year, 484 total new cases were reported in all 82 counties of the state.

According to Dr. Mary Currier, state epidemiologist, Brimah has "improved [healthcare] markedly," by opening his clinic. She said HIV/AIDS patients in the past had to travel about 90 miles to Jackson for medical services. "You can't even put in words how positive it's been since Brimah has come to the area," said Jerome Winston, who supervises the STD and HIV/AIDS division of the Health Department in Leflore County. "He treats HIV-infected people. There's no other physician in the immediate area who wants to do that."

Through a grant of $1 million from the US Department of Health and Human Services, Brimah's effort to care for his patients now has a home -- the Magnolia Medical Clinic/Greenwood Leflore Hospital HIV Program. The region of the Delta that it serves, too, reminds Brimah of home in Nigeria. "There's a peaceful nature to the Delta. Even the vegetation reminds me of home."

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Excerpted from:
Associated Press
09.02.01; Shelia Hardwell Byrd

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