By NBF News

•Apostle Paul

A man, who claims to have been miraculously healed of the dreaded HIV at Prophet T.B Joshua's Synagogue Church of All Nations, has turned a globetrotting pastor. He now campaigns for abstinence and crusades against stigmatization.

Born in Ode-Aye, Okitipupa Local Government Area of Ondo State, Apostle Paul Oluwadise Akarigbo, a top executive of an engineering firm, used to be a man about town. Catapulted from a poor, peasant background to money and the swinging life of Lagos, he almost ruined himself.

'I had a good job, had money and lived in a good part of Lagos. So, I wanted to enjoy life. There was no nightclub I didn't visit. I liked beautiful women. That was how I became HIV positive,' he revealed in an interview with Sunday Sun.

For over a decade, Akarigbo has traversed the African continent, testifying of his healing and encouraging people to live safe and healthy.

Using his home country, Nigeria and South Africa as a base, he has been invited to Canada, Australia and other countries by churches, schools and military establishments. A regular visitor to the ECOMOG camps in Liberia and Sierra Leone, he uses himself as case study and tells whoever cares to listen: 'I got healed so that I can be here to give you this message. Don't live wildly like I did in the past. It is too dangerous. Learn from my mistake.'

He came into the country last month to fine-tune the launch of his NGO, Save Africa Foundation (SAF).

HIV positive
According to him, in 1987, he found himself regularly in and out of hospitals. 'The hospitals told me I had cough, malaria, typhoid and diarrhoea. I didn't understand why I should be sick all the time. So, I was advised to do AIDS test. The result came out and I was positive,' he said.

As proved by laboratory reports, which he made available to Sunday Sun, a medical laboratory along Idimu Road, Ikotun in Lagos, Sul-Ak (Nigeria) Limited, screened his specimen and found him HIV positive on November 8, 1997.

A day before Christmas in 1997, he said he paid N600 as part-payment for N1,500 confirmation test at the Federal Ministry of Health Central Public Health Laboratory, Yaba, Lagos. Five days later, he went for the result and was clearly confirmed HIV positive. A note signed by the laboratory simply stated: 'This is to certify that Mr P. Akarigbo has been confirmed for HIV antibody, using Western Blot Techniques and was found positive (HIV) …'

The note with the heading: 'To whom it may concern' was signed by the laboratory's Technologist and Senior Consultant Pathologist.

Suicide wish
Faced with the fact that HIV/AIDS had no cure, Akarigbo began contemplating suicide. 'The disease has no cure. I just couldn't see myself dying in bits and suffering. I wanted to end it up fast and save myself and people around me all the trouble,' he said.

But before he did harm to himself, a friend took him to The Synagogue.

'When I got there, the prophet (T.B Joshua) prayed for me, touched me and told me to go that I was healed. Honestly, when he touched me, I felt something. The pain I had all over my body stopped. I immediately felt better and well again,' he recalled.

Negative result
To be sure he was really healed, Akarigbo followed up the encounter with series of tests. He first went back to the Federal Ministry of Health, National AIDS/STD Control Programme Division, Yaba Lagos, on February 12, 1998. A report from the division, which was endorsed by its national coordinator, found him negative. It partly read: 'This is to certify that Mr Akarigbo P.O has been screened for HIV antibody, using CAPILLUS HIV112 Technique and was found negative.'

On July 13, 1998, about six months later, he went to the laboratory in Ikotun where he first tested positive. This time around, the result was negative. He also went back to Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH). A report from the hospital's Haematology and Blood Transfusion Department found him negative.

The report signed by LUTH's Consultant Haematologist, Dr C.C Okany stated: 'This is to certify that the under-mentioned has been screened for HIV I and II with WELLCOZYME using batch No K63310 and was found NEGATIVE as at 18th December, 1998…' The hospital and laboratory numbers were given as 5867 and 0005867. The note was dated 7th January 1999.

Told that the result was only valid for six months, Akarigbo went back for more tests on July 28, 1999 and was still confirmed negative for HIV I and II. As though to be double sure, on May 6, 2002, he went again to LUTH for what he called routine test and was still confirmed negative by another Consultant Heamatologist , Dr A.S Akanmu.

Clean bill
With a clean bill of health, he decided to reach out to the world. He resigned his job in Lagos, got ordained an apostle and began traversing the continent sharing his experience. 'For keeping me alive, I believe God is using me for a purpose. He wants people to learn from my mistake. That is why I'm restless,' he explained.

Further tests in recent years at Lancet Laboratories at 2192 Highlands, North Johannesburg, still certified him negative.

Health Lab Africa, a South African national health laboratory service located at Saimr Bloemfontein, Freestate, on August 23, 2003, said of him in a note: 'Mr Paul O. Akarigbo has been observed for the past five years and he was invited to our laboratory in Freestate, South Africa, for reconfirmation. We also carried out all body analysis and confirmed perfectly Ok.'

When he visited our office in Lagos, last week, the 40-year-old evangelist said he wants to use his Save Africa Foundation to provide food for the needy. 'I want to open farms in the continent where food will be cultivated, processed and given out to the needy,' he said, radiating good health in his ash- coloured suit.