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Young scientist joins the movement against Malaria

Ify Aniebo is currently a PhD student at the University of Oxford. Professionally she has worked at TDL Genetics, Mediserve, the Cambridge Antibody Technology (Medimmune), Illumina Inc , the Sanger Institute, Cambridge and the Wellcome-Oxford-WHO unit in Thailand and has presented her resear at leading malaria research conferences around the world. She has a BSc in Genetics from Queen Mary, University of London and an MSc in Applied Bio-molecular Technology from the University of Nottingham.

Interview culled from
cp-africa: As a young girl, what piqued your interest in the sciences and ultimately in studying malaria?

Ify Aniebo: My interest was first sparked after I had suffered multiple infections from the bites of anopheles mosquito during my childhood and adolescent years. I noticed that the drugs administered both for treatment of the infection and for prophylactic use always changed because the parasite had become resistant. I find it both disturbing and fascinating that a disease which has been around for half a billion years still kills millions of people each year. What’s more intriguing is that no efficacious Vaccine has been developed. Malaria was neglected by the international community in the 90s and interest was only taken up a few years ago. There were no grants or funds to study the disease and millions were dying. Today there are some grants available but not as much as is expected. It is also saddening that there aren’t a lot of African scientists leading most malaria research programs considering the fact that it greatly impacts our continent. It is disheartening that most of the funds donated are from foreign organisations. I want to be part of the movement to eradicate malaria and effect a change positively because at the moment Malaria kills more people everyday than HIV/AIDS.

cp-africa: What do you think about the state of the malaria epidemic in Africa and how can African governments work towards greater prevention and treatment techniques especially amongst Africa’s children?

Ify Aniebo: People are still dying especially children but I think efforts are being made to tackle this global burden. I have come to find that majority of the efforts are made by international communities and non-profit organizations. Also there are countries in Africa that have been working very hard with these international organizations such as Ghana, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia to name a few. African governments need to include malaria prevention and treatment in their budget instead of waiting for European organizations for help. They need to start distributing insecticide treated nets (ITNs) to all homes in the country especially in homes with children under the age of five. These nets have success stories and really help reduce prevalence. At about £5 per net, each net can save up to 2 children. They need to make drugs available and cheaper for those that cannot afford it. They also need to invest a lot in health education and awareness. Environmental sanitation and water/sewage treatment is something African governments need to improve on because our environment is breeding ground for these mosquitoes. All in all, health care should be taken more seriously.

cp-africa: What are the challenges you face in the medical field as you work towards finding a malaria vaccine?

Ify Aniebo: The parasite has a complicated life cycle split in 2 stages, in human and in mosquito. It has been around for half a billion years now which means it has been evolving since then making it the most difficult organism to understand. That is very challenging. Finding a vaccine is dependent on so many fields within science but the great thing is all these fields work together making it a very exciting experience.

…Only 26, Ify was “the youngest person, the only black person and the only Nigerian in the Wellcome-Oxford-WHO unit in Thailand and in the Malaria Department at the Sanger institute in Cambridge…” NEXT

Closing the gap in child mortality

Dr Ernest Madu talks about Cardiac disease and Africa

What should you know about breast cancer?

What is Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer is a type of cancer where cells in the breast grow abnormally, without control. Most types of breast cancer start in the mammary ducts and most tumors grow fairly slowly and by the time you can feel a lump it may have been growing for many years. However, there are some tumors that grow quickly and aggressively. Sometimes breast cancer can be invasive. This is when abnormal cells from inside the ducts break out into adjoining breast tissue and the cancer cells to spread to the lymph nodes and when it is advanced, it can also spread to organs like the liver, lungs and bones.

How can I prevent breast cancer?

In order to answer this question we have to be able to answer the question, what causes breast cancer and the truth of the matter is that while the scientific community has gathered a great deal of information about what can increase the risks of getting breast cancer, the actual cause of a cell turning cancerous is still not known. So while the information available is not definitive in an assurance that one will not get breast cancer if the following risk factors are removed, adhering to these lifestyle changes will reduce one’s risk significantly.
There are some risk factors that you cannot change, like age, gender ecetera. However an awareness of your increased risk profile can help you make better choices about other risk factors.

Gender: The fact is that breast cancer in men is very rare, because women have more breast cells and that said cells are constantly exposed to female hormones, estrogen and progesterone.

Aging: As we get older our risk factors increase. 2 out of 3 invasive breast cancers are diagnosed in women 55 and older. It is recommended that women over age 40 get mammograms yearly and a 2006 study showed that women over 55 who received mammograms regularly had a 23% less risk of dying from breast cancer.

Race: While Caucasian women may get the disease more often, in African Americans the tumors tend to be more aggressive and as such treatment may be just as aggressive.

Oral contraceptives: Studies have shown that women using birth control pills have a slightly greater risk of breast cancer than women who have never used them. This risk seems to decline back to normal over time once the pills are stopped.

Body weight: Being overweight or obese seems to increase the risk of breast cancer, especially after menopause. Researchers have also found that if the weight gain occurs as an adult, then the risk is more.
Physical activity: Seems to reduce the risk of acquiring cancer. The American cancer society recommends 45 – 60 minutes of moderate exercise at least 5 days a week.

Early detection, Good prognosis.
Most women are diagnosed at very early stages of breast cancer before symptoms appear, because they took a mammogram. However, breast self exams are necessary and useful in monitoring any possible changes in the breasts.

How does one do a breast exam?
1. Stand or sit in front of the mirror. Examine your breasts. Do your breasts have their usual shape, size, contour and color? Take note of any changes that you see upon a visual examination. Search for any unusual changes, like bumps, redness, rashes, swelling. Look at the nipples and note whether there are any changes on them or the areola.
2. Next, raise both your arms over your head, clasping your hands together; at this point further examine the breasts visually. Then while keeping your left arm lifted up, use your right hand to gently squeeze your left nipple to check for any discharge. Bring your left arm down and raise your right arm and repeat the action on your right side.
3. Lie on your back on a firm surface and place a pillow or folded towel under your left shoulder. Bend your left arm and put your left hand behind your head. Using your index, middle and ring finger of your right hand, palpate (press) the breast with a soft touch. Press gently in a circular motion, starting from the area near your nipple moving out. Make sure you feel the whole of your left breast. Repeat the same action on the right side. Feel for any lumps (hard) or inconsistencies.
4. This can also be done in the shower. Once again feel the surface of your breast while in the shower or in the bathtub, this may be preferable for some who prefer to do breast exams while your skin is wet. Fold your left arm behind your head. Using the middle 3 fingers of your right hand, examining your left breast. Then do the same procedure on your right breast.
5. Stand up and face the wall, place your left arm on the wall. Don’t stretch the arm out otherwise it will make it difficult for you to accurately feel. Now using the three middle fingers of your right hand and examine your left armpit. Palpate for any lumps, bumps, thickening and areas with pain. Perform the same procedure on your right armpit.

The most common symptoms of breast cancer are marked by changes in the look or feel of the breast or changes in the look or feel of the nipple and nipple discharge. These are listed below:
• Lumps or hardness
• Swelling, warmth, redness or darkening
• Change in the size or shape of the breast
• Dimpling or puckering of the skin
• Itchy, scaly sore or rash on the nipple
• Pulling in of your nipple or other parts of the breast
• Nipple discharge that starts suddenly
• New pain in one spot that doesn’t go away
If you have any of these symptoms, you should discuss them with your doctor right away. Even though most of the time, these symptoms may be benign, it is important to follow up as soon as possible as breast cancer is most treatable at the early stages.

Choose to be free

Have you ever felt dissatisfied with your life? Who hasn’t, right? Well what if someone told you that you didn’t have to be. What would your response be?

You could probably write a long list of all the reasons that you can’t be satisfied. “I hate my job, but I can’t quit cause I need the money” “ I wish I could get in shape, but I can’t because I don’t have the time” “ I want to travel but I can’t because…and so on and so forth. The list goes on and on. We have a thousand excuses why we can’t do what we want to do. In other words we are imprisoned by our boundaries. Well here is a radical idea…you don’t have to be!

What are our boundaries?
When we were young, boundaries were things that our parents set up to keep us safe. “Stay here, don’t leave the yard, be home before dark, etc” At an early age, we became aware of the role of boundaries, they kept us safe and they were necessary. As we became adults we appreciated those boundaries and based on our experiences we began to set more to keep ourselves safe. Again there are some that are necessary. For instance, one shouldn’t drink and drive, but not all boundaries keep us safe; some keep us bound. Perceived boundaries come from unwritten rules that we create for ourselves as a result of past experiences. For example, the first time you express affection to someone publicly and they rebuff your affections…that’s when you establish an unwritten rule that says thou shalt not be allow thyself to be overly affectionate, or say you decide to start a business venture and it fails, then the rule is thou must remember that thou are not bill gates, thus thou should stick to what thou knows, or the first time you sing in public and are unlucky enough to had a Simon Cowell type in the audience, it then becomes thou shall not express thyself lest thou embarrass thyself. A thousand examples could be cited to illustrate the fact that when we find ourselves humiliated, hurt, or disappointed, we often make boundaries that exclude those experiences even though we recognize that those experiences will not threaten our lives.

Sometimes we don’t create the boundaries, others create them for us. Nkiru* likes to call such people negas. “People who just bring negative energy into every situation” she tells of how when she was applying to schools she lived with an aunt who discouraged from applying to top tier universities they’d never accept her {in spite of her good grades and recommendations}. “I believed the hype for a while and even started thinking of just going to a community college, but thankfully, I realized that if I didn’t try, I would never know and can you imagine, I got a free ride to a top ranked school!” Mary*, who recently emigrated from Liberia, found herself in a similar predicament, when she came to the US, she had dreams of becoming a doctor, but everyone around her pressured her to focus on something more sensible. Today she is a 2nd year nursing student and in spite of her determination to finish the program; she looks at the future with a heavy heart, always wondering what could have been. In her family’s push for security, they have seemingly doomed her to a life of mediocrity.

The last reason we keep ourselves bound is fear. Fear is probably the biggest reason a lot of us don’t step out of our boundaries. What are we afraid of? Some of us are afraid of failure. What if I fail is the recurrent phrase that plays in our head whenever a new opportunity presents itself. Fear can be a crippling emotion. It works by not allowing the person feeling it to see past the risk involved to see the possible rewards. Every challenge is made larger by fear. If you decided to start a restaurant for instance, fear wouldn’t allow you to see past the possibility of losing money to the possibility of having a very successful eatery. The way to silence that voice of fear is to say, so what! Failure is not an end to life; in fact in many cases it is a beginning to success.
What kind of life can we lead if we step outside our boundaries?
Think about how life would be if you could everything you wanted to do but couldn’t because of one thing or another. Some of us dream of becoming writers, some filmmakers, some dream of being chefs, others dream of being doctors, lawyers or nurses, anything at all, the world is wide open with possibilities.
Imagine if you could greet each new day knowing that you were going to take full advantage of your possibilities.
You might be saying, well that sounds all well and good but how can I be free?

Here are 6 basic steps to being free

1. Choose to be free: In the past freedom has not always been available to all of us but today we have no reasons not to be free. Choosing to be free means taking a real look at your life, identifying areas in which you have been previously been bound and making a decision to change your life and push past your boundaries.

2. Reach out to opportunity: The old adage goes opportunity knocks but once. That is only half true. Opportunity doesn’t always knock. Sometimes you have to create your own opportunities. Many of the most successful people today didn’t wait for an opportunity to fall in their lap.

3. Be confident in spite of uncertainty: Whenever you attempt to do something outside your scope of expertise, you will have moments of uncertainty. In order to be successful you must be confident that regardless of the outcome of one project you will ultimately succeed as long as you continue to pursue your passion.

4. Expand your circle of influence: Once you’ve decided to step out of your boundary and pursue your passion. Get out there and network. Talk to people who are out there doing things. Get inspired, get information and get help! People are more willing to help you than you think.

5. Don’t be afraid of the word, risk: Risk is just a necessary rung on the ladder that leads to success. If you don’t take risks then you are never going to achieve your fullest potential. It’s like you are on the shore of a river and your best life is on the other side, but the canoe available seems shaky at best. What do you do, make your life on the banks on the river or do you take the plunge and get in the canoe. Remember, even if you fall out of the canoe, you can always get back in the canoe, or if you are a strong swimmer, swim to shore!

6. Just do it! Stop making excuses, just do it! Get out of bed, get your pen and paper, write down what your dreams are, and figure out what it would take to achieve them, make a to do list, and get to it. You don’t have to wait till you get that degree, or win the lottery or get married, your kids grow up; you can start moving towards your goals today!

Never give up
An American war hero is quoted as saying “give me liberty, or give me death”. We should have that attitude of continually trying to get to that place of freedom. Historically the path to freedom has been a difficult one. One often rife with bloodshed and struggle. People around you may react negatively, some will call you crazy, you may feel crazy, but persist. Know that the concept of overnight success is often a myth. Look at every closed door as a challenge and be prepared to try and try again. Bear in mind that even the most successful among us, stumble a couple of times before finally breaking through to success.
The choice to be free is often a difficult one for many of us to make. It requires living by faith and often making radical changes. Rhian Benson, an R&B singer, made a radical change in her life by deciding to leave the practical world of finance for the improbable world of music. Did people call her crazy? Most probably, but barely a couple of years on the scene and she can already be heard on the radio and seen on BET.

Sometimes it requires breaking the rules
The most notable example is probably one of the richest men in the world, Bill Gates, who dropped out of school to start a business. Now he is the Microsoft guy and his personal worth is valued at billions.
It can require you to let go of everything you once defined as the trappings of success. Monica Haislip of little black pearl workshops in Chicago left a lucrative and glamorous position in marketing and decided to pursue her passion for helping the community and producing art. When she bought the building for her workshop on the south side, many called her crazy, when she ran out of money and had to borrow from everyone she knew, some people probably called her hopeless, but now where is she? Still standing, little black pearl workshops serves the community, inspires young African Americans to produce works of art and understand the business of it and it has an operating budget that is anywhere from $500,000 to $1.5 million.
The choice to be free is going to be difficult, it’s going to be uncomfortable, it’s going to require breaking every binding rule you’ve ever made, you may lose “everything”, but will it be worth it? Absolutely!
At the end of the day, it is a choice, and you can choose to live vibrantly, passionately, freely, or you can choose not to. It’s like Morpheus says in the Matrix…Do you want the red pill or the blue pill?

Be happy!

Happiness is not a reaction to things that happen to us, it is a life choice, an attitude which then actually impacts your life positively. If we choose to be happy regardless of our circumstances then studies show that we will be healthier – Carnegie Mellon University released a study in that found that people who described themselves as happy actually had stronger immune systems; If we choose to be happy, then we can live longer – US news and world reports stated that happy people have been reported to suffer less from cardiac disease, heart attacks and strokes and have longer life expectancy in general. There are so many benefits to being happy.

I have this friend who is probably the sunniest person I know. For a while there I couldn’t understand her, because this was a person who I had never seen down. She was a mystery as I couldn’t understand how she existed in the world and seemed to have no problems.

One day we spoke about it. I asked her how she was able to live seemingly problem free. She told me that of course she had problems but she chose not to dwell on them. She chose to think on the things in her life that were wonderful and be thankful for the blessings she did have, and even when she did think about her problems, she always remembered that it could be worse.

It was like I saw the sky for the first time that morning. I mean really these are precepts that I know, talk about but didn’t really live. I was challenged. Then she went further and thoroughly blew my mind by simply asking, “What good is having faith if you can’t use it” Indeed! If one has faith then joy should be a natural complement.

In a world fraught with problems and challenges sometimes it’s all we can do to keep a smile on our face. Yet my friend was teaching me how to live and truly be happy in spite of circumstances. Neither she nor her life is perfect by any means but she is accepting of all the flaws and circumstances that come with life and truly tries to make the best of it.

So many of us are so cautious in life, guarded even, because we have been hurt so many times before, but when you are guarded you find it hard to love others and even more crucial, you make it difficult for people to love you.

People and even life rise up to meet your expectations. The more you think about something, the more you revel in something, the more you speak about something, the more you fear something, the more you breathe life into it.

There is a scripture that states “That which I feared the most has happened to me” So if that happens then what? How will you live your life, If you have no plans of dying?

Won’t you join me today as I choose to use my faith like a sledgehammer against my problems, like a fence against danger, like balm on my heart. As I choose to focus on the wonderful things I have in my life, an amazing brown ball of energy, love and pure delight of a daughter, a husband who has added value to my life and has cared for me in countless ways and inspired me in others, a father, who has sent me the sweetest text messages, a mother who prays for me night and day, sisters who are my best friends, a brother who keeps it real, friends who teach me and hold me up when I am down…a life that while imperfect is beautiful and mine.

Thanks to my friend the optimist who reminds us all that the glass is never half empty, it is always half full.

Indeed this life has problems but it also has joys, no matter the circumstance you find yourself, this is true of everyone, so let’s all go on and get happy! Let’s chase all our blues away!

Cluttered house, cluttered mind

It has long been accepted as truth that the key to successful and happy living starts in the mind. Norman Vincent Peale penned the power of positive thinking that has been an international bestseller for over a decade and since then many other self help gurus and spiritual leaders have spoken about the same power. There is power in our thoughts and our thoughts reside in our mind.

Have you ever uttered the phrase “Please be quiet, I can hardly hear myself think?” Doubtless every parent or guardian has said it at least once in a lifetime. In order to think the mind needs quiet and order. Positive thoughts are hard to process in a life filled with noise and disorder, powerful thoughts come from a clear mind.

Clear space, clear mind.
A cluttered environment often leads to a cluttered mind. Nothing is found easily, closets are bursting at the seams with clothing that is hardly worn because it doesn’t fit, important papers get lost in crammed drawers and often things that are lost get bought more than once because they are misplaced. This creates chaos and limits the ability of our mind to think clearly.

Some people collect things constantly, new clothes, new stuff and never really let go of old items. Space is finite and as we put more in and don’t take things out, we end up with clutter with countless items that have no use in our homes and our lives.

Getting rid of unnecessary things helps to create space and a cleaner and more orderly environment. On a superficial level a cleaner environment can help prevent illness and foster good physical health. On a more visceral level, an orderly environment can create room for positive thoughts that can turn into successful actions. A cluttered environment can contribute to stress, exacerbating illnesses such as hypertension and asthma and even depression and anxiety.

How do we get rid of clutter?

First, decide to start somewhere. Often times our homes can be so cluttered we get overwhelmed. The thought of having to do all the work discourages us. However as the Chinese proverb states the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step, so even though the task may seem daunting, once one gets started, it will not be as impossible as it seems.

Break the project down into small achievable chunks. Focus on one area at a time, once that area is completely decluttered then move on to the next. It may have to be done in stages, depending on how severe the situation is.

Ask yourself about your need to keep acquiring?
Is it normal and healthy? Do you over spend? Do you really need another pair of black shoes or another book about finance? Are you ever going to read all the back issues of the magazines you keep? Are all the knickknacks you buy to decorate your home completely necessary? Do I buy things just to make me feel better about myself? Asking these sorts of questions will help you understand yourself and understanding is the key to better decision making.

Let go of items that no longer fit your body, home or life.
When cleaning out your closet adopt a six month rule, if you haven’t worn it in over six months and it is not seasonal, consider giving it away if it is still in good condition. Donate it to charity or give it to the less fortunate in your life. If you have an item that is broken and you are still planning on getting fixed but haven’t, it may be time to let it go. Clearly it has no use for you, all it does is sit and collect dust and take up space. Find someone who has a deeper need than you and bless that person with it or simply throw it away. Do you have items you bought hoping to fit it into it one day. Give yourself a 30 day limit. If you are not making visible strides towards creating that new you, perhaps you need to take a closer look at the current you and go through a process of acceptance by letting go.

Recycle items that you can use. Old materials can be reworked at the tailor to be made new. Old household items could make useful toys provided that they meet safety requirements. Old magazines and such can be used as art projects for children and books could be donated to schools.

Releasing one’s attachment to things can be difficult. For many people, material items are a sort of security blanket. Some of us believe that the more things we have the more happiness we can create in our lives. Some of us have sentimental items from our past, useless gifts from old lovers for example. While some sentimental items have value, your child’s first shoe perhaps, but a token from a relationship long gone and over may be doing you more harm than good, if it creates an unhealthy link with the past, as someone who is stuck in the past cannot move forward into the future. Things cannot make you happy, so collecting the newest and latest can become an exercise in folly.

Many animals go through a process of shedding their skin or coats, as they outgrow their current skin, they shed it in order to expose the new, healthier and more beautiful skin that they have grown. Releasing items and clearing out our homes, closets and life is like shedding our old skin. As we outgrow items, clothes and even relationships we should release them so as to live new, healthier, more beautiful lives.

Work out at home!

The Silent STD

What is chlamydia?

Chlamydia is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs). It’s a bacterial infection, which is found in semen and vaginal fluids.

Causes and risk factors:

Chlamydia is usually passed from one person to another during vaginal, oral or anal sex, or by sharing sex toys. It can live inside cells of the cervix, urethra, rectum and sometimes in the throat and eyes.
Chlamydia can also be passed from a pregnant woman to her baby.


Chlamydia is often referred to as the ‘silent infection’, as most men and women don’t have any obvious signs or symptoms, or they’re so mild they’re not noticed.

Symptoms can appear one to three weeks after you’ve come into contact with chlamydia, or many months later, or not until the infection spreads to other parts of your body.

Women might notice:

Unusual vaginal discharge.
Bleeding between periods or during or after sex.
Pain with sex or when passing urine.
Lower abdominal pain.

Men might notice:
White/cloudy, watery discharge from the tip of the penis.
Pain when passing urine or painful testicles.
If the infection is in the eye or rectum, you may experience discomfort, pain or discharge.

Treatment and recovery:

Chlamydia is easy to treat with antibiotics, either as a single dose or longer course for up to two weeks.

Tell your doctor or nurse if you’re pregnant, or think you might be, or you’re breastfeeding – this might affect the type of antibiotic you’re given. The antibiotics used to treat chlamydia interact with the combined oral contraceptive pill and the contraceptive patch, making them less effective, so check this with the doctor or nurse.

To avoid reinfection, any sexual partners should be treated too. Every time you have a new sexual partner you need to be tested. If complications occur, another treatment might be needed.

Without treatment, the infection can spread to other parts of the body causing damage and long-term health problems, including infertility.

In women, chlamydia can cause pelvic inflammatory disease. This can lead to:
Ectopic pregnancy (when a pregnancy develops outside the womb, usually in the fallopian tube).
Blocked fallopian tubes (the tubes that carry the egg from ovary to womb).
Long-term pelvic pain.

In men, chlamydia can lead to painful infection in the testicles and possibly reduced fertility.
Rarely, chlamydia can lead to inflammation of the joints in both men and women. This is known as reactive arthritis. When this involves the urethra and the eyes, it is known as Reiter’s syndrome.

Keep fit with African dance

Inspire Me Fit in Highland Park, NJ holds this african workout class but if you are not in New Jersey this is a workout you can adapt on your own or even seek out the local dancers in your area. Dancing is excellent cardio and most of all, it’s fun!