URI to hold HIV/AIDS Symposium, Nov. 8

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Focuses on global issues, professional collaboration

KINGSTON, R.I. – October 25, 2010 – The University of Rhode Island will host an HIV/AIDS Symposium Nov. 8 in the Galanti Lounge of the Robert L. Carothers Library to cover various global health issues and challenges associated with the disease.

The program, starting at 9 a.m. after registration and short introduction, will focus on the issue of HIV/AIDS and feature four lectures from diverse speakers. The event is free and open to the public and includes breakfast and lunch. For further information, email Shahla Yekta, adjunct assistant professor at URI’s College of Nursing, at shahla.yekta@gmail.com

“I chose to focus the symposium topic on HIV/AIDS because it is a topic most people are familiar with. I want to show students in all studies that they can make a positive impact by working in the United States or abroad,” said Yekta. “Also, with the global funding and national programs that were put into effect being downsized over the past two years, the progress in accessibility to treatment programs for HIV/AIDS is reverting back to a state of crisis and I wanted to bring attention to the cause again.”

She will open the symposium by giving an overview of HIV/AIDS and touching on global issues regarding the disease.

Following Yekta’s lecture, Annie DeGroot, EpiVax president and CEO and URI research professor, will talk about her HIV clinic in Mali where she works with student volunteers and also focus on the science and challenges associated with developing a virus vaccine. EpiVax is an immunology company dedicated to developing new vaccines and reengineering therapeutic proteins.

Jennifer Flynn, managing director of Health Global Access Project, an organization committed to eliminating barriers to accessible medication for people living with HIV/AIDS, will focus on advocacy in the United States. Wrapping up the lectures will be Catherine Lalonde, a project coordinator with Doctors Without Borders, who will speak about working in conflict zones with refugees infected with HIV. Lalonde will also focus on her experiences in Sudan and how the organization keeps volunteers safe in turbulent areas.

Affording students a chance to learn about HIV/AIDS on a global stage, the symposium also offers them opportunities to further their education with internship opportunities.

“Students can talk to Dr. DeGroot about opportunities to intern at her Mali clinic as well as myself if they are interested in getting involved in research,” Yekta said. “The event offers a good setting for students to network and ask about speakers’ personal experiences.”

Although focusing on the issue of HIV/AIDS, Yekta also hopes the symposium gives students a glimpse into how collaborating with other professionals improve health care overall.

“The symposium features speakers with very different backgrounds that can talk about the same issue from different contexts that people can relate to,” said Yekta. “It shows that you can do something to benefit everyone, globally and nationally, no matter what path you choose to take, and you can always consider the welfare of human beings while collaborating with others to achieve a common goal.”

Coordinated by Yekta, Donna Schwartz-Barcott, professor of nursing and Dayle Joseph, dean of nursing, the event is free and open to the public although prior registration is required and closes on Nov. 1. The event is sponsored by URI’s colleges of Arts and Sciences, Environment and Life Sciences, Human Sciences and Services, Nursing and Pharmacy.

This release was written by Alicia Blain, an intern in URI’s Department of Communications and Marketing and a public relations major.