Guest speakers come to Blair to talk about AIDS epidemic
Two guest speakers spoke to Blair students yesterday on the issue of the international HIV/AIDS epidemic. The teach-in was held by Students for Global Responsibility (SGR).
AIDS activist Kaytee Riek and Frenk Guni, Senior Associate of International Programs at the National Association of People Living with HIV/AIDS, both spoke at the teach-in. Guni talked to the group first, Riek spoke second, and a question-and-answer session between the audience and the speakers was opened at the end of the teach-in. Both speakers presented twice at 2 p.m. and 3 p.m.
Guni, a native of Zimbabwe, Africa, focused on the affect of AIDS infection in Africa. "There are many young children like you [in Africa] who want to go to school but can't go because they are either sick themselves or taking care of others who are," said Guni. Guni also shared statistics about AIDS. Every 15 minutes in Zimbabwe, a child dies of AIDS, 70 percent of all people infected with HIV/AIDS live in Africa, and 30 percent of all of people living with AIDS are under 25 years old.
In his part of the teach-in, Guni also compared circumstances for those diagnosed with AIDS in America to those with AIDS in other countries. "Here in the U.S. , if you're born with HIV, the chances of you living a normal life are twice as high as anywhere else in the world," said Guni. He went on to explain that in Africa, medicines to help those with HIV/AIDS are much harder to obtain than in America and that many people don't have regular access to doctors. The ratio of people to doctors is as high as 300,000:1 in some areas of Africa.
Guni also talked about recent projects to help with the AIDS epidemic in Africa. Guni mentioned a program that works to improve educational curriculums to lead more Africans to become doctors and teachers. Another program Guni mentioned was one in which students from America communicate with other children in Africa through letters to help them stay in school. "[Realizing] that there is someone thousands of miles away thinking about them lifts [African children's] spirits," said Guni.
However, Guni also noted that there is still more to be done in order to improve the current status of the epidemic. "AIDS is an international problem. The future of the world is being killed," said Guni.
Riek spoke about President George W. Bush's plan to help with AIDS epidemic, which is known as The President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
Riek said that though Bush's plan provides more money than past plans for helping countries affected with AIDS, it wouldn't provide enough relief for many countries. Riek explained that while PEPFAR would supply $15 billion over five years for foreign countries, that would not be enough to help. "Economists would guess that we need about 30 billion dollars to fully fight this epidemic," said Riek.
Riek also disagreed with PEPFAR's proposal to teach abstinence-only curriculums in foreign countries to bring down HIV/AIDS infection rates. "It [has] never worked in the U.S. , and it'll never work exported around the world," said Riek. Riek also said that the PEPFAR program is "severely under-funded" for providing nations with relief and that the program as whole is "just not good enough."
During her presentation, Riek encouraged the audience to join in AIDS campaigns to help with the issue by circulating a sheet for students to sign up for notifications for upcoming AIDS rallies. Riek also urged the group to go to the U.S. senate to write to Maryland senator Paul Sarbanes to ask him to help enforce a debt cancellation for countries living in poverty so they could have more money to help deal with AIDS related issues and Maryland senator Barbara Mikulski to ask her help push for more financial support for international AIDS relief.
Emma Zachurski. Emma has lead a bohemian lifestyle ever since her birth to an eccentric pair of a journalist and an artist. She is now currently a senior and looks forward to another great year with Silver Chips Online! Her spare time is best spent listening to … More »