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>  News Releases >   2001 >   March

Dartmouth students to weigh in on HIV/AIDS issues facing Africa

Posted 03/31/01

While the HIV/AIDS epidemic affects countries and cultures worldwide, it is imposing an overwhelming medical, ethical, cultural and political burden on Africa. Should the United States play a stronger role in helping those afflicted with the HIV/AIDS virus in Africa? If so, then how? On Saturday, April 28, graduate and undergraduate students at Dartmouth College will wrestle with those questions at the College's second annual Student Science Court, titled "HIV/AIDS in Africa: How Should the USA Respond?"

At the daylong symposium, students will tackle the same issues in treating and studying the HIV/AIDS epidemic that currently weigh heavily on the minds of health care professionals, researchers, business leaders and politicians both here and in Africa. Expert panelists from the United States and Africa will discuss the issues and take questions from the audience. At the end of the day, after delving into these difficult issues, Dartmouth students will vote on a series of questions. The results of the vote will be posted at

According to the World Health Organization, of the 5.4 million people newly infected with HIV virus in 1999, 4 million live in sub-Saharan Africa, the hardest-hit region. The epidemic has effects all across society, with the highest rates of transmission now occuring among heterosexuals and from mother to child. In many African countries, one quarter of the population is infected. Africa is struggling to cope with the demands of the HIV epidemic with limited health resources and differing cultural behaviors.

With the use of powerful drugs, an AIDS patient in the United States now lives longer. This fact raises a range of questions about U.S. response to the HIV/AIDS crisis in Africa: Can U.S. resources and expertise help those in Africa? What research is needed? How should it be carried out? Does the high cost of drugs prohibit treatment in Africa? What are the ethical challenges inherent in treating pregnant women who are infected? Can the United States help find an African solution given the vast differences between our health care systems?

"It is very important that our students become familiar with such a complex issue which overlaps so many disciplines. They are our future doctors, researchers, policy makers, politicians and business leaders contributing to global decisions," said Lee Witters, Eugene W. Leonard 1921 Professor of Medicine and Biochemistry and Director of Dartmouth's Human Biology Program. "The Science Court is intended to draw students into timely, complex and often controversial matters," Witters said. Students are encouraged to explore issues from a variety of angles, taking an interdisciplinary approach. Last year's science court addressed the ethics of stem cell research.

This year's Science Court participants include representatives from business, health care, research organizations, government and medicine in the United States and Africa.


  • Nils Daulaire , President and CEO, Global Health Council, White River Junction, Vt., Overseer, Dartmouth Medical School, Hanover, NH
  • Philip Hedger , Executive Managing Director, International Affairs, Pfizer, New York, N.Y.
  • Bernard Lo , Professor of Medicine, Director, Program in Medical Ethics, UCSF School of Medicine, San Francisco, Calif.
  • Kisali J. Pallangyo , Dean, Faculty of Medicine, Muhimbili University College of Health Sciences, University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
  • Glaudine Mtshali , South Africa's health representative to the Americas, Embassy of South Africa, Washington, D.C., and former chief director, National Health Programs, South Africa
  • Fordham von Reyn , Chief, Infectious Disease Division, Dartmouth Medical School, Hanover, N.H.
  • Richard D. Waddell , Director, HIV Research Studies, Dartmouth Medical School, Hanover, N.H.
  • Beatrice Were , Coordinator, National Community of Women with HIV/AIDS, Kampala, Uganda
  • Catherine M. Wilfert , Scientific Director, Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, Chapel Hill, N.C.

The Science Court, cosponsored by Dartmouth's Human Biology Program, the Ethics Institute and many other campus organizations, is free and open to the public, although only students will be allowed to vote. The event runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and will be held in Cook Auditorium. Click here for more information about the science court and the issues surrounding HIV/AIDS in Africa.

Dartmouth has television (satellite uplink) and radio (ISDN) studios available for domestic and international live and taped interviews. For more information, call 603-646-3661 or see our Radio, Television capability webpage.

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