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Day One: December 3
SESSION I: Welcomes and Introductions
Participants were welcomed to the workshop and given basic background information by the organizers. Ebby Chagala and Mabel Imbuga of AWSE, who along with Caroline Lang'at-Thoruwa (and their staff) did all the local organizing for the workshop, welcomed everyone and thanked them for coming, noting that it was two years ago in 1999 at ICRAF that AWSE was originally established, with HIV/AIDS identified at the time as one of the primary issues requiring the new organization's attention. Prof. Imbuga emphasized that the situation in East Africa with regards to HIV/AIDS was indeed serious, with some 20 percent of high school students and 16 percent of primary school students having HIV-positive status. She further noted that girls and women are disproportionately affected by the disease, with approximately 6 girls testing positive for every 1 boy, and argued that there is a great need for a stronger response on the part of universities to meet this unavoidable challenge. Prof. Imbuga expressed the hope that the workshop would enable the sharing of experience and discussions of curriculum reform and other university programs, and stressed the importance of the participation of men in AIDS control efforts.
Vicki Wilde, of CGIAR's Gender and Diversity Programme, noted that women, Africa, science, and AIDS were all top priorities within ICRAF, and said that while the situation at times seems hopelessly discouraging, nobody should feel that they are too small to make a difference. Alan Bornbusch of the AAAS Africa Program followed by stressing that all institutions represented have a role to play in combating HIV/AIDS, and that universities and women are particularly important as leaders in this area. Dr. Bornbusch acknowledged the women of AWSE in this regard as well, noting that this young institution has proven itself an excellent partner both in terms of intellectual contribution and organizational capacity. Finally, he warned that efforts to fight HIV/AIDS must be sustained over the long term, as rates have begun to rise once again in the United States as vigilance has waned, and that the task is therefore not only to bring infection rates down, but to keep them down.
Prof. Henry Thairu, Deputy Vice Chancellor of Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, welcomed the participants as well on behalf of his university, and emphasized the connection between AIDS and poverty, with its links to prostitution, poor nutrition, and ignorance. Thus the fight against AIDS in Africa is very much a part of a broader socioeconomic struggle to raise the material standard of living and improve education and health care within the region. Prof. Thairu argued that universities must depart from the traditional classroom approach and find creative ways to become more participatory and engage the students more effectively in the challenge ahead.
A final welcome was offered by Dr. Olenge from the National AIDS Council of Kenya. Dr. Olenge read a speech on behalf of the Honorable Ole Ntimama EGH MP, Minister for Internal Security, Office of the President. Hon. Ole Ntimama's speech noted some sobering statistics, e.g., that 70 percent of the world's AIDS cases were in Africa, and over 70 percent of all new infections globally occur in Africa. Kenya only declared AIDS a national disaster in 1999, establishing the National AIDS Council the following year. Hon. Ole Ntimama recognized that universities must play a key role in fighting AIDS since their students fall within the most vulnerable age group (20 to 29). He identified the need to undertake comprehensive curriculum reform efforts; to address religious groups and beliefs that hamper progress; to address cultural factors (e.g., ≥cultural silence≤ and female circumcision); to reduce stigmatization and affirm the right to confidentiality; and to write new laws to acknowledge deliberate HIV infection as a form of murder.
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Maseno University (powerpoint)
Maseno University (PDF)