AIDS @ 30

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The Conference

November 30, 2011

In remembrance of World AIDS Day, the CGHD invited Reverend Ted Karpf, Dr. Lisa Messersmith, Dr. Don Thea, and Dr. Martha Vibbert to reflect on their personal and professional experiences with HIV/AIDS.

The Speakers


Rev. Canon Ted Karpf is a human rights activist, an Episcopal priest and a public health expert engaging in public, community and faith-based health responses to HIV/AIDS since the early 1980s.  He came to BU from the World Health Organization, where he was Partnerships Officer.  At that time, he was also Senior Fellow in the Health Inequalities Program at the Duke University Terry Sanford Institute for Public Policy, and in 2008, was the principle editor of Restoring Hope: Decent Care in the Midst of AIDS.  Karpf is the Canon for Global Health at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC.  Combining his experience as a missionary for the Episcopal Church with extensive collaboration with international aid organizations like the World Bank, USAID, and the UK Department for International Development, Karpf has consistently intertwined the the Christian and Development communities.  In recognition of his service, the United Nations General Secretary, Ban Kee Moon, congratulated Karpf for his “leadership creating recognition and relationships with faith based health services providers around the world to advance the UN mission of life saving interventions.”

Messersmith, Lisa

Lisa J. Messersmith, PhD, MPH, MA, has over 20 years of experience conducting research and developing, implementing, and evaluating programs and policies addressing sexuality, gender, HIV/AIDS, and sexual and reproductive health and rights. Dr. Messersmith is Associate Professor of International Health at Boston University School of Public Health and Associate Professor of Anthropology at Boston University’s College of Arts & Sciences. She has lived and worked in a number of countriesincluding Vietnam, Thailand, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Mali, and Burkina Faso. She is the principal investigator (PI) on several studies/projects including research to better understand and meet the health and social service needs of women living with HIV/AIDS in Vietnam; a study of the social and economic determinants of sexual vulnerability among adolescent orphans and vulnerable children in Namibia and Ethiopia; and a study to document the types and magnitude of discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS in Vietnam. As PI and director of the Vietnam AIDS Policy and Planning Project, she led a team of U.S.-based and Vietnamese faculty to train over 900 policy makers on AIDS policy and planning. From 1998 to 2004, she served as the Sexuality and Reproductive Health Program Officer for the Ford Foundation’s Office for Vietnam and Thailand. In 2004, the Vietnam Ministry of Health awarded her the Medal for the People’s Health. Previous positions include Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy and Research Fellow at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government; Visiting Fellow at Harvard University’s Francois Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights; UNAIDS Country Program Advisor in Bangladesh; Research Associate in the Department of International Health, Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health; and Women and AIDS Advisor at USAID in Washington, DC. She has a PhD and MA in anthropology from the University of California, Los Angeles, and an MPH from Johns Hopkins University.


Donald Thea, MD, MSc, has pursued a full-time career in both domestic and international clinical and epidemiological infectious disease research, primarily in HIV/AIDS and childhood pneumonia. Dr. Thea received an MD from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and was trained in tropical medicine at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and in infectious diseases at New England Medical Center. He was a member of Project SIDA (Kinshasa, Zaire) the first international clinical AIDS field site, where he was the director of the Clinical Research Unit. Dr. Thea pursued his interest in perinatal HIV transmission as the Principal Investigator of the New York City Perinatal HIV Transmission Study. He then joined the Health and Social Development Unit of the Harvard Institute for International Development, where he focused on international field research in Acute Respiratory Illness, Malaria, and HIV. Dr. Thea was the Principal Investigator of the Zambia Exclusive Breastfeeding Study from 2001 to 2007 (ZEBS), a prospective cohort study of postnatal transmission of HIV through breast milk which established that early and abrupt weaning is not a safe alternative for HIV-exposed children. He also led the Zambia Boston University Malaria Program from 2001 to 2005, which helped to launch a highly effective national malaria program in Zambia. He is currently the Program Director of the Boston University PMTCT Integration Project (BUPIP), which seeks to improve the implementation of PMTCT services and early infant diagnosis services in Southern Province, Zambia, to a population of approximately 3 million. In addition, Dr. Thea has conducted multiple field trials in studies intended to improve the global guidelines for the management of childhood pneumonia in developing countries, studies on the community management of fever in low-resource settings, malaria in pregnancy, and determinants of child sexual abuse in Zambia.

Martha Vibbert, MD, is Executive Director of the SPARK Center at Boston Medical Center and Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics at Boston University School of Medicine. As a licensed clinical psychologist, Dr. Vibbert has over 20 years of experience in the delivery of mental health services to young people who are living with HIV/AIDS, first at Harlem Hospital in NYC and since 1991, at Boston Medical Center. Dr. Vibbert has served on the Mayor’s Planning Council for Ryan White CARE Act Title I services in Boston, and she is a clinical supervisor for the Center for Multicultural Training in Psychology at BU School of Medicine. She is a specialist on the topics of diagnostic disclosure to children with HIV/AIDS; early neurodevelopmental manifestations of the disease, and emotional/behavioral outcomes in adolescents who are living with the virus. In addition to overseeing AIDS service grants funded by the MA Dept. of Early Education and Care, MA Department of Public Health, and Boston Public Health Commission, Dr. Vibbert collaborates on youth-oriented HIV projects in Zambia and Uganda.