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Saul Garlick

Saul Garlick

Posted: December 1, 2009 05:02 PM

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.



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