The Realities of HIV/AIDS

Posted on: February 2018 Topics: HIV/AIDS

The Boston University Medical Campus united in conversation about the realities of HIV/AIDS. This multi-part series of events covered everything from the tragic first years of the outbreak to where we are now. Our hope is that by remembering and broadening our understanding the beginning of AIDS, health professionals will be better equipped to understand the present reality of AIDS and combat stigma as they advocate for the improved health of all.

1985: Voices from the AIDS Crisis

Two of the more than 48,000 panels of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt commemorating the life of someone who has died of AIDS were on display on the Medical Campus September 7, in conjunction with the SPH Dean's Forum 1985: Voices from the AIDS Crisis.

The AIDS Memorial Quilt is a powerful visual reminder of the AIDS pandemic, a time in our recent past that should never be forgotten or taken for granted. Activist Lab staff member Emily Barbo took a moment to reflect on her experience with the Quilt: "Before I started working at the Activist Lab I actually had never heard of the AIDS Memorial Quilt. But that changed very quickly. The photographs of the Quilt displayed on the National Mall in DC are iconic but don't do it justice. When the Quilt finally arrived on campus I was part of the set-up crew. Seeing those panels emerge from the box was surprisingly emotional for me. And the Quilt's purpose suddenly because so real--these are the cherished memories of the people left in the wake of death and devastation. I think what touched me the most were the moments of joy I found in the details. Sharing a nickname, the photographs, inside jokes, and friendship bracelets. I have all of these things for people in my life, too."

A memorial, a tool for education, and a work of art, the quilt is a unique creation, an extraordinary response to the tragic loss of human life that elegantly framed the conversation that also took place that morning, remembering the early days of the crisis.

Moderated by Dean Cox, a panel of health professionals embroiled in the early days of the HIV/AIDS crisis spoke to the SPH community about their still-vivid memories of stigma and fear that permeated the 1980s as well as figures of hope and inspiration.

One of the common threads these narratives shared was that when witnessing the discrimination of people suffering from HIV, often to the detriment of their health, the panelists took action and found ways to make a difference. Members of the audience shared some of their own stories from those early days, recalling the polarization and how the fear of the unknown not only shaped and defined social circles but also individual relationships.

Living with HIV/AIDS: Lunch & Learn

Students from across the Medical Campus were invited to join in a conversation with consumers of HIV/AIDS services while enjoying a complimentary luncheon. This disease has wrought enormous suffering and devastation and caused more than 35 million deaths. Yet today, thanks to remarkable achievements in biomedical science and public health, we have the tools to build a better future for individuals living with HIV. While preventing new infections is essential, it remains critical that the 36.7 million people living with HIV globally benefit from cutting-edge science and care. The goal of this program is to provide education and opportunities for developing healthcare providers to engage in conversation about the realities of care management of individuals living with HIV/AIDS.

Why Us? Left Behind and Dying

The Activist Lab hosted a screening of the documentary, "Why Us? Left Behind and Dying" which follows a group of inner-city African-American teenagers as they explore the root causes of the HIV epidemic in their own community. During the screening, there was a lively discussion the panelists Hank Weinstock, MPH Candidate and member of the film production team, and Gary Daffin, Executive Director at Multicultural AIDS Coalition and Social Policy Researcher. The conversation was be moderated by Dean Harold Cox.

“Why Us? Left Behind and Dying,” a documentary film and research project, is an in-depth examination of the reasons why HIV rates are disproportionately high in black communities. It was made from the point of view of a small group of inner-city African-American teenagers, ages 14-17, from Westinghouse High School in Pittsburgh, PA.

For once, these teenagers wanted to be the researchers; not just the researched. So the filmmakers became facilitators and teachers; stepping back and allowing the teens to ask their own questions of heterosexuals, homosexuals, intravenous drug users, public health experts, and scientists.

The myriad of factors that contribute to HIV’s impact on the African American and African communities are presented in truthful and unflinching terms.  Knowing the mechanics of the virus is simply not enough for the community to survive it.  We need to understand the stark realities of how the disease permeates the community aided by political, social and cultural beliefs, policies and practices.

Oral Manifestations of HIV Disease, Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP): The Basics and Beyond Hepatitis B & C Updates

The goal of an interprofessional update in HIV is to be able to demonstrate the importance of a team effort to provide quality comprehensive care to people living with HIV. Oral Health Professionals, Public Health Practitioners, Medical Professionals, Social Workers, Community Outreach Workers, and students interested or involved in any of these fields were able to attend and in most cases received continuing education credits for their participation.


Kevin Ard, MD, MPH
Medical Director National LGBT Health Education Center Fenway Institute Faculty Member, Division of Infectious Diseases, Massachusetts General Hospital, Instructor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School.   Dr. Ard has written and lectured widely on LGBT health disparities, intimate partner violence in LGBT relationships, and HIV prevention. His current interests include LGBT health education, the intersection of clinical medicine and public health, and the care of patients with HIV and hepatitis C.  Dr. Ard serves as faculty for the New England AIDS Education and Training Center.

Hervé Sroussi DMD, Ph.D.
Director of Research, Division of Oral Medicine & Dentistry, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.  Dr. Sroussi is a Diplomate of the ABOM. He holds a DMD from Hadassah School of Dental Medicine in Jerusalem, Israel, a Ph.D. in oral sciences as well as a certificate in oral medicine from the University of California, San Francisco. He is an associate professor, chief of oral medicine and the director for graduate studies at the College of Dentistry of the University of Illinois in Chicago. His clinical and scientific interests converge in his effort to better understand and manage diseases resulting from dysregulated immune functions.  Dr. Sroussi serves as faculty for the New England AIDS Education and Training Center.

Alysse G. Wurcel, MD MS
Assistant Professor of Medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine, attending physician in the Division of Infectious Diseases and Geographic Medicine at Tufts Medical Center. Dr. Wurcel’s expertise is in infectious diseases, HIV, hepatitis C, HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis, sexually transmitted diseases.  Dr. Wurcel serves as faculty for the New England AIDS Education and Training Center.

This event was sponsored by the New England AIDS Educational and Training Center, Gilead, Boston University School of Public Health, and Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine.

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