From Santa Clara to South Africa
n the United States, an estimated 15,000 new cases of AIDS are diagnosed each year, a significant decrease from the 40,000 new cases diagnosed annually in the 1980s. In total, an estimated 400,000 people in the U.S. are living with AIDS.
Travel to South Africa, as SCU senior Joe Novotny did in 2005, and you’ll find a much bleaker picture in terms of the epidemic. While studying in Cape Town, Novotny volunteered at a children’s home that included orphans infected with HIV and others left parentless by AIDS.
The numbers in South Africa are staggering: Over 330,000 people have died from AIDS-related causes in the past year alone, more than in any other country in the world. One out of nine South Africans—over 5 million people—are HIV-positive. Among the complicating factors: South African President Thabo Mbeki’s support for scientists who dispute that HIV causes AIDS; and a slow rollout of antiretroviral treatment programs.
This year, Novotny and senior Kate Radvanyi are serving as CRS interns. Their goals: educate SCU students on the current state of HIV/AIDS in the community and on a global scale, as well as on ways people can get involved with HIV/AIDS issues.
“This epidemic is a threat to everyone’s future,” Novotny says, “We need to become active in our communities, educating other young people who see us as peers, and helping those who are HIV-positive fight stigma and seek needed treatment.”