World AIDS Day 20th anniversary recognized at USF listen12/01/08 Seán Kinane
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For the past 20 years, the World Health Organization has designated Dec. 1 as World AIDS Day. It was observed in several locations around the Tampa Bay area today, including at the University of South Florida’s Tampa campus where researchers are studying a microbicide that could be used to battle HIV infection.
Patricia Emmanuel is professor of Pediatrics at USF. Along with investigators in 14 other cities, Emmanuel is researching how to prevent and treat adolescents who are infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the microbe that causes AIDS. One aspect of that research, in collaboration with a group called the Microbicide Trials Network, involves one particular vaginal microbicide being used in a trial study at the USF Student Health Center, Emmanuel said.
“There’s many different types of microbicides. This one acts as a barrier and disrupts the virus. A microbicide is usually a topical gel or a cream that’s applied by women into the vagina. Right now what we’re testing is actually testing the safety of this product and the acceptability – whether women accept its use.”
Emmanuel said that a vaginal microbicide that is effective against HIV would empower women to protect themselves from infection. That’s important, Emmanuel said, because the AIDS pandemic is a growing problem among women.
“Around the world, approximately 50 percent of infections are in women. And in particular, for example in Africa, it is young women … who are becoming infected, generally in their teenage years. The problem is that with a woman becoming infected, then the risk to her infant – there’s about a 25 percent chance that she will pass the virus to her infant. And certainly her living children have the possibility of becoming orphans, so it just usually impacts the entire infrastructure of the society.”
Microbicides can be made with or without contraceptive properties. Emmanuel addressed a group of about 40 USF students during a World AIDS Day Commemoration that included a film screening of In Women’s Hands, a film about international efforts to promote vaginal microbicide.
The event was organized in part by the Student Global AIDS Campaign at USF. Jordan Markel is their president and also works for the Department of Pediatrics.
Several student groups had tables with information about HIV or AIDS activism. Holli Silberman passed out condoms and data about sexually transmitted infections (STIs) on behalf of Student Health Services and Hillel, the Jewish student organization.
The Pinellas County Health Department gave out health screenings, flu vaccines and HIV and syphilis testing, all for free, at Williams Park and at all five county health department offices on Monday. The Hillsborough County Health Department offered free HIV and STI testing at its Kennedy Boulevard office in Tampa. The Florida Institute for Community Studies offered free HIV tests and bilingual information in Town 'N Country.
Lorraine Savage is with the knitting club of USF and is selling knitted and crocheted AIDS ribbons in benefit for the Children’s AIDS Foundation of Tampa Bay.
Caring for Haitian Orphans with AIDS (CHO AIDS), is a not-for-profit group started by a public health worker at USF. It provides education, school fees, uniforms, food, medical treatment, and a place to live for children with AIDS who have been orphaned in Haiti, said Nancy Romero-Daza, an associate professor of Anthropology at USF.
A World AIDS Day Remembrance and Candlelight Ceremony is taking place until 7 p.m. Monday in the Ballroom of the USF Marshall Center. On Tuesday in Marshall Center room 2708, there will be a student-run conference on healthcare in the United States as seen through the lens of Hillsborough County.