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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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