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Today Is World AIDS Day

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On November 29,
1983, a New York Times article written by Lawrence K. Altman ran with the
headline “AIDS Now Seen As Worldwide Health Problem.” Mr. Altman reported
that AIDS cases were found in “33 countries and all inhabited continents.” In
2008, the number of worldwide AIDS cases was estimated at over 31 million. The
vast majority of people living with AIDS are in sub-Saharan Africa.

I was 6 weeks
old when Mr. Altman’s article appeared in the New York Times; most of my staff
and all of the college students involved with Think Impact weren’t even born.
For the past several years, my non-profit organization, ThinkImpact (formerly
Student Movement for Real Change) has focused its work on health and education
initiatives in Kenya and South Africa, specifically in rural villages. We have
witnessed the AIDS epidemic first hand. And what have we done about it?

We have held
numerous Health Days and HIV/AIDS workshops in South Africa to educate
community members about the causes, prevention and risks associated with the
disease.

AIDS education
is included in every community health workshop we provide in rural Kenyan
villages. We held a “Train the Trainers” program in Kenya for 130 community
members on HIV/AIDS and other health issues, so they can educate others in their
villages. We have petitioned for condoms that don’t break for our communities
in South Africa, and we have distributed thousands of condoms to the people of
Manyeleti, South Africa. And we have trained thousands of American college
students on issues associated with HIV/AIDS.

Two of our four
2010 Global Development Fellows who will return to Africa next summer to live
and work for a year have created original projects that recognize the HIV/AIDS
problems in Kenya and South Africa. Alexandra Crosson, a 22-year-old from Michigan,
will open a Women’s Action Center with several sexual health education
components. Mary Templeton, a 24-year-old from Ohio, will open a community
center with specific outreach to children who have been orphaned by the AIDS
epidemic.

Looking back
over the years and knowing that our work has positively affected the lives of
so many who are living at risk in African nations, I am proud of what we have done.
But have we done enough? Has anyone done enough?

Are enough
condoms being distributed in African nations? Have enough doctors offered to work in rural clinics to help prolong the life of the mothers, fathers and children who
are dying from this disease? Will the new initiatives announced by President Zuma reduce infant mortality and mother-to-child infection rates?

The battle has
been waged against HIV/AIDS. It is our personal and global responsibility to do
our part and work against HIV/AIDS in Africa and around the globe.