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AAAS Sending Donated Books to East Africa To Help Universities Address AIDS Epidemic
In an effort to help African nations address an AIDS epidemic, AAAS is finding new ways to use young students as catalysts of change. Alan Bornbusch, Director of the Africa Program at AAAS, collected HIV-AIDS textbooks to give to four African universities.
The universities receiving the textbooks include three from Kenya, and one from Tanzania. Each university prepared award-winning grant proposals for HIV-AIDS-based education initiatives. In addition to the donated textbooks, they will be awarded informational CDs and $2,400 in August of this year.
To support the project, the American Public Heath Association (APHA) donated 80 copies of a public health manual, "The Emergence of AIDS," and the Jones & Bartlett publishing house gave 90 copies of a reference handbook, "AIDS In The Modern World."
"We are very pleased to be able to donate these books to [the AAAS] Africa project. The HIV-AIDS pandemic in Africa is so devastating, and we are happy to do all we can to help train AIDS-competent doctors to work in this area," said Ellen T. Meyer, Director of Publications for APHA.
The winning universities proposed various strategies for incorporating HIV-AIDS into university science curriculum. For example, undergraduate students learning research methods might design an HIV-AIDS survey for the community. Bornbusch points out that the students will learn first-hand how to design surveys and analyze results. They will also help to improve AIDS awareness within their communities.
"The focus is to use HIV-AIDS as the subject around which you teach science," he said.
This way, students learn science better because it hits close to home--it becomes meaningful to them, Bornbusch said. And in the long term, students who study science within an HIV-AIDS context will engage more responsibly with the issue in the future, when they are leaders of their community.
Many countries in Southern and Eastern Africa do not have the funding to even keep journal subscriptions, let alone to buy new textbooks, and web access is either absent, or very poor, according to Bornbusch. Donating these textbooks to university libraries ensures that students will have access to new material on HIV-AIDS.
Public education about AIDS, its transmission and causes, is vital to Africa where, Bornbusch said, some 28 million people live with HIV-AIDS, and superstition about the virus still hampers prevention efforts. According to Bornbusch, there is a need for a science-based understanding to support responsible health decisions.
The high HIV infection rate, Bornbusch said, is associated in part with traditional African gender relationships. For example, because women are considered to be lower in status in many regions, some may find it difficult to negotiate for protected sex. Even among more educated groups, mores of male-domination may affect disease transmission rates, he said. In a university setting, male staff members might force themselves on vulnerable female students. Female students trying to pay for their education may sell themselves, he added.
Over the long term, bringing HIV-AIDS into university curricula not only enhances students' education, but also creates a cycle of "AIDS competence" amongst the thousands who graduate each year. These students will continue to engage in HIV-AIDS issues in later capacities--as journalists, politicians, teachers.
"We just hope that in our own admittedly small way, we can make a difference, and stick to the AAAS mandate: 'To Advance Science and Innovation Throughout the World for the Benefit of All People,'" Bornbusch said.
20 May 2002
- APHA and Jones & Bartlett
- Regional HIV/AIDS Statistics and Features, End of 2002
- More Information on the Grants