On April 12, the annual AIDS Science Day was held at the Yale School of Medicine’s Department of Epidemiology and Public Health. Bringing together community-based AIDS organizations and HIV/AIDS researchers at Yale, the event focused on new strategies for community prevention and intervention as well as strengthening the bridge between research and community services.
Co-sponsored by the Center for Interdisciplinary Research on AIDS and the Yale AIDS Program, AIDS Science Day featured three panel discussions and presentations, community booths, and a keynote address by Phill Wilson, founder and executive director of the African American AIDS Policy and Training Institute.
The three panel discussions, consisting of 15-minute presentations on specific research projects, addressed the topics of new methods of intervention, the role of sex, drugs and politics, and the socio-economic factors that contribute to HIV risk. Members of the Hispanic Health Council and the Institute for Community Research in Hartford led many of the presentations.
Although much of the emphasis was on the domestic AIDS crisis among low-income, inner-city minorities, the discussions also voiced concerns about the rapid spread of AIDS in Third World countries.
One such presentation was given by Shalini Kapoor EPH ’02, titled “AIDS Orphans and Their Caregivers in the Tribal Wards of Bergville/Okhahlama District of KwaZulu Natal in South Africa: A Needs Assessment.” Kapoor said that although caretakers of AIDS orphans in South Africa could apply for government-sponsored grants, very few people were aware of the grants. She added that those who do apply often face strict eligibility criteria and national bureaucracy that make it hard to qualify.
In the keynote address, titled “Until There is a Cure,” WIlson asked the audience to get involved in the fight against AIDS, especially in the local community.
“I think that speech was exactly what students needed to hear, because I don’t think our students are encouraged that much to go out there — and we don’t necessarily get involved in the community,” Dhruti Contractor EPH ’02 said.
Wilson stated the frightening statistics about the rapid spread of HIV and the number of AIDS-related deaths worldwide.
“Eight thousand people died a day last year from AIDS. Imagine the World Trade Center collapsing twice a day, every day,” Wilson said.
Wilson stressed the importance of both prevention and treatment, and emphasized the importance of looking at the domestic problem of HIV/AIDS in the United States. He added that blacks or Latinos make up 66 percent of all new AIDS cases in this country.
“What makes us think that we can navigate the linguistic and cultural divide and teach Africans how to deal with AIDS when we can’t seem to manage our way across town to help African-Americans and Latino-Americans to fight this epidemic?” he said.
Wilson also criticized the government for putting the fight against AIDS at the bottom of its budget priorities. Wilson told the audience they could help by lobbying for support of the Minority AIDS Initiative and the passage of an emergency supplemental bill that would give an extra $750 million to the Global AIDS Fund. He also encouraged Yale students to volunteer at local minority AIDS organizations.
“People from places like Yale, Harvard and Princeton are the people who run the world, and you can make a difference, you can make a difference today,” Wilson said. “Use your privilege to make a difference.”