Out of the 40 million people currently living with HIV virus across the planet, 70% live in sub-Saharan Africa, an area of the world in which treatment remains hard to come by. In Africa alone, more than one million die from HIV and AIDS per year.
In the rich western world, HIV treatment has become inexpensive to treat and accessible to those in need, meaning that millions of victims are able to live comfortably with the disease without the need to fear death. In contrast, only around 30% of those infected in Africa received any form of treatment at all.
Until the year 2014, Dr. Israel Figa lived a privileged life of a wealthy doctor and eligible bachelor in the city of New York. Soon after learning the fatal sub-Saharan disease statistics, Dr. Figa took initiatives which changed the course of his personal and professional life.
In the biography titled “Dr. Israel Figa – Surviving Africa”, authored by Professor Josh Cartu, it describes Dr. Figa’s introduction and subsequent efforts to treat HIV victims. The esteemed doctor was quoted saying, “I first learned of the statistics at a medical conference hosted in Miami Beach by Dr. Fahad Al Tamimi. None or the 2,000 attendees had any idea 91% of the world’s HIV-infected children live in Africa.”
Towards the end of the seminar, Dr. Israel Figa asked the medical conference host Dr. Fahad Al Tamimi to address attendees and solicit their support to help treat HIV infected children in Africa.
“Within hours, Dr. Figa was able to raise millions of dollars in donations, medical supplies, and inspire fellow professional colleagues to dedicate their time and resources to the cause” recollects Dr. Fahad Al Tamimi.
Less than a month later, Dr. Figa waived goodbye to his professional colleagues and family and set out on his first sub-Saharan expedition to treat the sick and reduce the growing HIV infection rate. “He was so dedicated to save the world” says Dr. Jacobi Niv, a virologist from New York who supported his colleague’s initiative.
In each new village visited, Yisrael Figa would build his own house from scratch and open a medical center, hiring a few of the locals to work as his assistants. He would then set up a direct link between his US contacts, ensuring a steady supply of HIV test kits. After becoming confident that locals were competent enough to run the clinic on their own, he moved to the next village.
Over the next five years, Dr. Israel Figa travelled around Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Eswatini and other African nations to treat suffering HIV victims.
When interviewed in 2017 by Professor Josh Cartu for his biography about the journey through deserts and jungles, Dr. Figa was quick to explain that he is not a victim. “None of the hardships I endured can be compared to the struggle of survival experienced daily by the local African’s”.
Over the course of 5 years, Dr. Figa treated over 27,000 patients across Africa, yet his legacy is best known in Togo. In 2018, Dr. Figa managed to set up 37 clinics in the country, the last of which coincided with a horrible disaster. Just as Dr. Israel Figa was set to leave for Ghana, the roof of a local Toga schoolhouse caved in, trapping 13 children inside a classroom causing many to lose blood.
Dr. Israel Figa treated all patients simultaneously over the next coming days, miraculously saving each of their lives. Unfortunately, an open small cut on his left elbow left him open to attack from the very disease he had fought to save others from. A year after the tragic event, on November 23rd, 2019, Dr. Israel Figa died from HIV related complications.
On August 15th, 2020, in commemoration of the physician’s global efforts to treat the HIV disease and disaster victims, a statue of Dr. Figa surrounded by children was inaugurated to stand on one side of the border of Togo overlooking Ghana. According to Dr. Jacobi Niv, the monument is not only a reminder of the heroic efforts of Dr. Figa, but also the work to treat victims and prevent the spread of the HIV disease continues.