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Greetings from Mason, Ohio! Obviously, my original plan of live-blogging during our trip didn't work due to technical difficulties, so this blog is going to much more reflective than I originally intended. If you are interested in seeing a live feed of our trip, check out juliainsouthafrica.tumblr.com, an excellent blog that details our daily activities in the form of journal entries, pictures, and videos.

My goal with this post is to give you a little background on this course and why the heck we went to South Africa in the first place. The title of this course is Public Health & Infectious Disease: The South African Experience, and our focus was HIV/AIDS. We left the US on June 5th and returned on the 19th, visiting Pretoria, Durban, and Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Park.

But why South Africa? South Africa has the highest prevalence of HIV in the world, with Black South Africans at a whopping 13.6% (Check out more stats here and more detailed breakdown here). Also, remember that these numbers represent those who are willing to get tested. There is a very significant stigma against those who are HIV+ in South Africa, and being seen walking into an HIV testing facility can be humiliating for many.

So, roughly 1 in 9 South Africans suffer from HIV. There are several theories as to why South Africa was hit so hard, including the effects of poor government housing for Blacks during Apartheid, the lack of education regarding safe sex, the high rates of rape, the low percentage of male circumcisions (Research has shown that circumcisions can substantially lower the possibility of transmission). Chances are, the answer is that all of these factors had an impact.

But the real question is what's being done about it? There are several organizations dedicated to increase awareness of this epidemic, promoting sex education, and providing treatment (anti-retroviral therapy - ART) to those who are HIV+. One organization we visited, Topsy, is dedicated to providing free care and treatment, especially to children (Check out their heart-wrenching ad here. For those who watched it, Selinah is doing well and the ad received a lot of publicity for Topsy). There are also several research organizations dedicated to finding more preventive means, which I'll touch on later. And, of course, lots of clinics have sprouted, both through hospitals and other organizations, to provide free testing and treatment.

I know I'm being very general, but I'll discuss more in depth when I post about the actual topic. Also, here's an excellent video that discusses HIV's life cycle and ARV therapy (for those who aren't very familiar with the virus).

Feel free to comment with any questions, comments, or puns you may have. I'll try to post a couple of times a week  (with lots of pictures, of course) so check back often!

7/20/2012 19:14:19

Excellent! I admire all the helpful data you've shared in your articles. I'm looking forward for more helpful articles from you. :)

Joseph Aidan
www.arielmed.com

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