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A call to action in the fight against AIDS

There are currently almost 34 million people living with HIV worldwide, 30 million of these infected people live in developing countries. Additionally, over 1,000 children are newly infected with HIV per day with many more adult infections on the rise. On Wednesday, December 1, people all over the world joined together to recognize the breadth of the disease and what can be done.

In collaboration with NU AIDS Awareness Week 2010, the Social Enterprise Institute joined in to do the same. Through a special lecture series event, SEI and NetImpact brought together a panel of guest speakers and students to discuss the steps being taken to eradicate the HIV/AIDS epidemic locally and globally.  Moderated by Professor Kari Furtek, Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Pharmacy Practice at Northeastern, panelists called students into action. As the founder and Executive Director of Prevention Access to Care and Treatment (PACT), Dr. Heidi Behferouz brought to light the problem of AIDS at home in greater Boston.

PACT is Partners in Health (PIH) only domestic heath care program and works to serve some of the most sick and marginalized HIV-positive and chronically ill patients in the area. Modeled after PIH’s Haiti programs, PACT trains and employs community members as community health workers that regularly take care of those who have fallen through healthcare’s cracks. This innovative model has been replicated in Baltimore, New York, Miami, the Navaja nation and internationally in Peru.

Professor Chris Chanyasulkit then academically spoke on the extent of the HIV/AIDS globally by examining China’s battle.  As the program manager of the China AIDS Project at the Harvard School of Public Health, Professor Chanyasulkit stressed the importance of getting involved with organizations working to combat HIV/AIDS.

Panelist Katie Bollbach went on to do the same, emphasizing that you do not have to be a healthcare worker to get involved. While studying International Relations and African Studies at Stanford University, Bollbach traveled to Zambia and working in a refugee camp. During her time there she co-founded FACE AIDS with fellow college students. FACE AIDS works in collaboration with PIH to harness young people’s passion for social change and equip them with the tools to fight HIV/AIDS and promote global health equity. In her current position as Program Manager of the Global Health Corps, Bollach again believes that young people are a powerful force in bringing about global health equity. The program places young professionals in healthcare programs abroad and in the United States. From graduates with backgrounds in sociology working to encourage health literacy in the states to computer science majors scientifically monitoring HIV positive women in Brundi, fellows  are from a wide variety of backgrounds.

The overall theme that students took away from the evening was that HIV/AIDS is a complex problem, but one that has tremendous potential. In order to find a solution to the AIDS epidemic, motivated people of every background are needed to apply their different skill sets.

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