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In July 2007, as I approached the end of the third year of my genitourinary medicine specialist training in London, I made contact with the Clinton HIV/AIDS Initiative (CHAI), via the St Stevens AIDS Trust, looking to do HIV volunteer work in a resource-poor setting. After several phone conversations with a CHAI recruiter, and once he learnt that I grew up and studied medicine in Sierra Leone, I was offered a clinical mentor post in Liberia, a neighbouring country. I understand that they prefer doctors who understand the local culture whenever possible.
This filled me with a mixture of excitement and apprehension. I had not been back to West Africa since I left Sierra Leone at the end of 1999 and I was looking forward to travelling to Monrovia (Liberia) via Freetown (Sierra Leone) and catching up with old friends. I had also visited Liberia a few times as a kid and I had fond memories. I also remembered how dire and inadequate the health system was in Sierra Leone when I was a medical student there and I was concerned that Liberia would be no better.
As it turned out, things were even worse in Liberia than I had thought possible. The rebel war that ravaged Liberia for more that a decade had spilled over into Sierra Leone and both countries were left with a skeleton medical system and medical workforce with almost non-existent infrastructure in the way of roads, water and power supply.
Previously, the quoted …
Competing interests: None declared.
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