A large crowd packed a seminar room in the University Museum last night to learn about the spread of AIDS in Africa. The first session of the monthly AIDS in Africa dialogue dealt with the topic of "Epidemiology and Demography of HIV/AIDS in Africa" and featured three prominent speakers, most notably James Hoxie, the director of the Center for AIDS and HIV Research at Penn. The three presentations gradually narrowed the focus on the AIDS pandemic from a worldwide view to a regional one and finally to a specific nation. Hoxie took advantage of the opportunity to explain the objectives of the research center to the crowd of more than 70 people, which included such faculty notables as Donald Silberberg, the associate dean of Penn's International Medical Programs, which establishes research relationships with foreign institutions. Hoxie expressed his excitement at the partnership between his center and the "AIDS in Africa" dialogue by identifying their common goal: "to reach out to the student community." Because of this partnership, the center now officially sponsors the monthly dialogue. The other two speakers, Alex Weinreb and Amson Sibanda, a native of Zimbabwe, are both demographics experts who have researched extensively in Africa. Weinreb, a fifth-year graduate student in demographics, emphasized that the AIDS pandemic was still exploding at a terrific rate. "The belief that the fatalities as a result of AIDS would never catch up to the fertility rate is beginning to be undermined," he said. Weinreb added ominously, "There will be a negative growth rate." Weinreb also pointed out "some real problems" with data collection in Africa. He explained that "no one really knows how prevalent HIV is in the sub-Sahara." Sibanda narrowed the focus of the speech to the specific example of Zimbabwe, his native country. In his presentation, Sibanda posed the question of why the HIV and AIDS situation was so out of control in one of the most successful and developed African nations. Fourth-year Anthropology and Folklore graduate student Tonya Taylor, who organized the dialogue series, marveled at Sibanda's "rigorous honesty" as he suggested several possible reasons for the HIV and AIDS problem in Zimbabwe. Sibanda's answers ranged from the more popular explanation of the differing cultural context of sexual reproduction to more subtle problems including Zimbabwe's central location on many trade routes. After each of the speakers had finished, the program continued with a lively discussion among the many audience members who remained. On November 25, the next dialogue in the series will focus on the socioeconomic impact of AIDS in Africa.Comments powered by Disqus
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