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The Fight Against HIV/AIDS

USF Students at Home and Abroad


Patients outside an HIV/AIDS treatment clinic in Zimbabwe, where native Zimbabwean Lilian Dube, USF assistant professor of theology and religious studies and director and co-chair of the African studies minor program travels, regularly travels to deliver vitamins and volunteer.

It's World AIDS Day 2009 and a dozen University of San Francisco students are bundling boxes of multivitamins to be shipped to Zimbabwe, where the disease afflicts more than 15 percent of the country’s population.

Throughout last summer and fall, more than $2,100 worth of multivitamins and cash donations were collected on campus by students, staff, and faculty working on the part of USF’s Health Promotional Services department and the African studies program. VitalCare, as the vitamin drive is called, first expanded to USF in fall 2008 after Dr. Robert Scott, the founder of Oakland-based Allen Temple AIDS Ministry, spoke on campus.

Scott, who passed away in October, was on campus speaking to students about his experience leading volunteers to Zimbabwe for the past 10 years. In Zimbabwe, Scott’s team distributed anti-retroviral medication, worked to educate the public on HIV/AIDS, and distributed vitamins to bolster patients’ ability to fight HIV/AIDS with improved nutritional health. Touched by Scott’s description of the ministry’s efforts, USF students decided to do what they could by collecting vitamins for the cause.

“The vitamins play a vital role in helping to keep the patients healthy especially since there is often not enough food or medication for those with HIV/AIDS in Africa,” said Kyrstin Thorson, a junior international studies major who is also among a growing number of African studies minors.

“Students, including many from the African studies minor program and Umthombo Club, as well as staff and faculty from Health Promotion Services and University Ministry, coordinated the vitamin drive for a second year in 2009, collecting bottles of pills and repacking them for patients in Africa,” said Lilian Dube, assistant professor of theology and religious studies and director and co-chair of the African studies minor program.

Dube, who is teaching a newly designed course about theology in HIV/AIDS contexts and is leading a first-time HIV/AIDS service-learning and study abroad trip to Zambia this summer for USF students, knows firsthand the impact of HIV/AIDS on Africans. A Zimbawean and member of Allen Temple AIDS Ministry, Dube worked in AIDS clinics in her native country last January, calling the experience “life changing.”

“AIDS is a global pandemic,” said Dube, who will travel home to work in AIDS clinics again this January. “It’s a poverty issue, a gender issue, and therefore it is a justice and theological issue.”

Dube believes that allowing USF students to witness the socio-economic consequences of HIV/AIDS in sub-Sahara Africa will spark them to action and community organizing to support nonprofits and faith-based organizations waging the fight against HIV/AIDS, if not abroad, then back in the Bay Area. 

“I am extremely excited to actually experience the HIV/AIDS crisis in Africa, instead of just reading about it,” said Thorson, who, as part of the trip, will be traveling to varies parts of the country and assisting in clinics.

Witnessing the crisis will be a foundation for USF students to begin to critically analyze the economic political, cultural, religious, and gender factors as causes and solutions to Africa’s problems, Dube said.

Written by Edward Carpenter »usfnews@usfca.edu